By Rashi Gupta
Nikki Gershbain put her name on the wait list at Ryerson’s daycare centre when she was three months pregnant.
A spot finally opened up for her son, Max Gilbert, shortly before his fourth birthday.
This is the experience of dozens of parents looking to place their kids in Ryerson’s Early Learning Centre, which can only accommodate 62 children between the ages of 18 months and six years.
But there are currently 31 names on the centre’s wait list and, according to management, most can expect to wait years for a space to open up.
“The wait list can be very long, for many families it is up to two years depending on the time of year and the age of their child,” said Early Childhood Education (ECE) director Sally Kotsopoulos.
“We are always full, as it is essential to meet our financial obligations to the university.”
Ryerson students and faculty are given first priority for admissions, but capacity is an annual problem.
The wait can be the longest for parents with very young children since the centre can only accommodate 10 toddlers and there are already 14 kids waiting for spots to open up.
One reason for the expanding wait lists at university and city childcare centres is an overall rise in demand over the last 15 years.
The number of children between the ages of six months and five years that are enrolled in early childhood education has increased by 54 per cent since 1995.
However, the number of daycare facilities, have not expanded enough to compensate for the growing demand.
“There are only a certain amount of spaces available which is why we need the government to provide more dollars for universal childcare,” said University of Toronto associate professor Janette Palletier.
“Lack of space can only be fixed if there is more funding to build new child care spaces and to hire ECE’s to run the programs.”
The space shortages in university daycare facilities are also partly because the programs’ good reputation among parents creates a high demand for spots, according to former ECE professor and doctorate student Elaine Winick.
“ECE lab schools have always been the epitome of excellence in programming, simply put because they are managed by the training programs themselves,” said Winick.
But university campus daycare centres are worth the wait, according to Gershbain.
“It’s an absolutely amazing program.”
Photo: Lauren Strapagiel