By Jordan Heath-Rawlings
Ryerson administration hasn’t yet mandated any budget cuts, but that hasn’t stopped early childhood education from taking the axe into their own hands.
Ryerson’s evening childcare program — where parents leave their children for $3 an hour while attending late classes — has been eliminated. Since December 14, students have been unable to leave their children at the daycare past 5:30 p.m.
“That’s great,” said RyeSAC president Odelia Bay sarcastically. “Classes go until six, and that’s not even mentioning Continuing Education.”
Continuing Education Students Association of Ryerson (CESAR) manager, Frank Cappadocia, was just as upset.
“It’s our students who are the primary users of the program,” he said. “So obviously we’re very unhappy.”
Bay believes money was unquestionably the motivation behind the program’s elimination.
As part of Ryerson’s strict new budget guidelines, schools have been told not to operate any programs at deficits. Early childhood education director Dale Shipley said that the evening childcare program had been in the red for the past two years, and that this year was looking even worse.
Even after receiving nearly $11,000 in subsidies from Ryerson, RyeSAC and CESAR last September, Shipley said the evening childcare program was still operating at a deficit of almost $6,000 by the end of November.
“Had we continued to run the program it would have been double that figure,” said Shipley.
The real problem with evening childcare, Shipley said, was a lack of awareness among community members about the program. That led to a lack of children for the two teachers to care for, and a lack of revenue coming from the parents.
“We needed an average of 16 children a night to make the program work economically,” Shipley said. “We never got anything close to that.”
Shipley said that ECE counted the number of children dropped off at evening childcare, and subtracted the children simply left at the Early Learning Centre past 5:30 p.m. The average daily turnout for Evening Childcare, Shipley said, was 4.2 children.
But Bay doesn’t think that enrolment numbers matter.
“We’re talking about a basic need for childcare,” she said. “These are parents who have school and work and homework and studying — and children to care for. It’s not an easy task.”
Cappadocia believes the lack of childcare may discourage parents from attending Ryerson.
“What we’re very concerned about are students who might not be able to attend school any longer because this program is unavailable,” said Cappadocia, adding that CESAR has begun early talks with Ryerson about restoring the program in some capacity.
“I find that personally and professionally upsetting,” he said.
Shipley agrees but said the university had no choice.
“It’s a very serious problem for individuals,” she said. “But the simple fact is, the university cannot sustain this program.”