Hopes for a much-needed expansion of Penhold’s child care programs hinge on town council giving the go-ahead to a different and bigger location.
The daycare program is currently located at the town’s old library, and the school age program runs out of the local elementary school. A larger building will allow the programs — both have waiting lists — to be expanded and in the same location.
The Community TIES Society, a non-profit group that operates both child care programs, wants to move them to the Memorial Hall. The old library and Memorial Hall are owned by the town.
A town council meeting earlier in December was jam-packed full with supporters of the proposal to move into the Memorial Hall .
Daycare director Patti Muir said Community TIES has long waiting lists for the daycare and school-age programs.
“With the growth of Penhold that we’ve had and surrounding area … we’re maxed. I have a waiting list of about a year and a half for parents.” She currently has a list of seven families wanting to start full-time daycare in January or February.
The daycare program in the old library is licensed for 24 children, a combination of toddlers and preschoolers in different rooms. “It’s teenie. It’s tiny. It did what it needed to do,” Muir said of the current location.
The school-age program would also move over to the Memorial Hall location, a building that has three separate areas that could house school-age, and toddlers and preschoolers.
Chris Cooper, president of the Community TIES Society, said Penhold is one of the youngest per capita towns in Alberta and a lot of young families are moving into the area.
Penhold’s population grew nearly 20 per cent from 2011 to 2014 — from 2,375 to 2,842.
“It’s the perfect community because … the child can start at a daycare and progress in that daycare all the way to Grade 12.”
“My son started in daycare as a toddler, and now he’s in kindergarten. We’re going to stay in Penhold. He’ll be able to grow up with the same friends his whole life all the way to Grade 12. That’s important. You know you lose some of that when you’re in the big city,” said Cooper.
”Penhold is no longer a bedroom community,” noting the town now has a new grocery store, Subway, doctor’s office, pharmacy, dentist, two new full-size strip malls — and more businesses are coming.
“Child care is expensive; it can be over $1,000. Penhold is $750 for full-time care.” The nonprofit group likes to keep their rates low, Cooper said.
A recent report on child care in Penhold, prepared by Jamie Seiyama, child and youth co-ordinator for the town, said when respondents were asked if there was currently a need in their household for child care, 23 per cent answered yes, and 23.8 per cent anticipated a need for it in the next five years.
This need will more than double in the next five years as the majority population is young adults, the report said, and suggests the town continue to support Community TIES through funding, grants or building space.
Community TIES would like to be in the Memorial Hall by March. Town council decided to consider the proposal during its Jan. 7 budget deliberations and provide an answer by the end of January.