Private childcare has been set aside for the time being as a solution to the challenge of facilitating childcare options for UVic faculty, students and staff.
The university’s board of governors passed a motion at its Nov. 24 meeting to defer consideration of private sector childcare as an option at this time. The board did not mandate an alternative approach, and confirmed that the issue of childcare at the university should be dealt with by the administration in the context of the normal priority and budget setting processes.
While acknowledging that childcare is “an enormously challenging issue,” board chair Ray Protti made it clear that it’s up to UVic’s administration to determine how the issue is addressed in the future.
“Although the board has not mandated a major investment or process, we will continue to move forward on childcare,” says Vice-President Academic and Provost Jamie Cassels. “We recognize the importance of the issue and will continue to explore ways to address it.”
Cassels says that the administration will look for ways to improve facilities at the current childcare sites, including a new roof and playground; seek opportunities to better integrate related educational and research programs into the childcare operation; and continue to search for cost-effective ways to increase capacity.
In addition to parents’ fees, the university currently allocates more than $500,000 per year to support on-campus childcare. Vice-President Finance and Operations Gayle Gorrill advised the board that while there was “not a lot of incremental funds” to invest in expanded childcare, “we are going to investigate opportunities both on- and off-campus to expand and enhance our childcare options.”
Among some of the options that might be considered are partnerships with nearby neighbourhood childcare facilities, in-home childcare within Family Student Housing and other models of community childcare delivery.
“We welcome input and suggestions and will be discussing possible childcare options with stakeholders over the next several months,” says Gorrill.
UVic Childcare Services currently has 154 spaces in a variety of programs. But like other universities, demand for childcare outstrips availability and as of August there were about 180 children on the waiting list. UVic currently ranks in the top third in a survey of 22 Canadian universities in the per-capita provision of childcare.
At its earlier meeting in September, the board requested UVic’s administration to conduct due diligence on the private childcare company Kids & Co as a way of meeting the additional needs.
In its report to the board, the administration acknowledged widespread opposition to for-profit childcare from childcare organizations and UVic employee groups. The report also indicated that while more childcare spaces are needed, committing resources to any expansion has to be considered in light of UVic’s other commitments and strategic priorities.