Early Learning Centre cuts outrage parents

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By Snetha Kulkarni and Jonathan Spicer

Outraged parents blasted Ryerson administration last week over abrupt changes made to the Early Learning Centre, charging that they were misled while daycare quality eroded.

In a meeting designed to calm parents’ frustrations, administration was continually rebutted and interrupted as they spoke to members of the parent advisory committee in Kerr Hall.

In August, fees were increased, some services were cut and the structure of care for children was changed at the campus daycare. Program administration said this was necessary to coordinate the ELC with the learning of early childhood education students, who are required to spend one week studying in the daycare-lab.

But parents at the meeting felt mislead by a lack of consultation with them over the changes.

“People rely on this service — it’s about their kid’s care. To cut that without any notice is pretty drastic,” said parent Jacob Bakan, who is a member of the ELC parent advisory committee and spearheaded opposition at the meeting.

But parents feel they were cheated out of what they believed to be the best child care in Toronto.

“We liked the multi-age [model] because we thought he would be in one room with one group of teachers for three years,” Bakan says of his two-year-old son Micah. “Now, [Micah] is with different kids, he’s in a different room, he’s with different teachers. Kids have a hard time with transition like that.”

The Bakans put Micah on the ELC waiting list six months before he was even born, but didn’t receive a spot until their son was eighteen months old. “They didn’t have enough infant sport before,” Bakan said. “Now you’re going to have to put your kid on the waiting list before you conceive to get in.”

Although the increase in fees brought prices in line with those of similar services in Toronto, parents question the availability of care.

“In fact, they’re raising fees to the top end of market level. And their hours are at the lower end of hours offered in the Toronto market,” Bakan said. “They don’t have a concept of the fact that [the ELC] is a centre that provides a service to students, faculty and parents.”’

However, Shipley said the ELC is to function primarily as a lab school, with less emphasis on treating it as a daycare. ECE administration told parents at the Sept. 18 meeting that Ryerson wouldn’t sponsor daycare at all without that connection.

Administration and parents agreed on Sept. 18 to set up another meeting, although no date has been set.

“We are not particularly optimistic about what they’re going to do,” Bakan said. “This great model of care is gone.

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