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'No safe place for their kids'
Norman Wells parent says community needs preschool or daycare for younger children

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 18, 2013

LLI GOLINE/NORMAN WELLS
Nearly a year ago, Norman Wells parents received an unfortunate surprise - the only daycare facility in the community was closing.

"Mid-week, they called us after we picked up our kids and told us the day care would be closed tomorrow," said Mandi McDonald, recalling events of last December. "Two days later, they told us it would be closed indefinitely."

Since that time, the daycare has remained shuttered and parents such as McDonald - two of her three children are not of school age - have had to fend for themselves.

Although she "lucked out" and was able to hire one of the laid-off daycare workers to watch her children, other parents were not so lucky.

"Some people have hired nannies," said McDonald. "People are making do but I know a lot of people can't work because there is no safe place for their kids."

Sheila Duclos, the president of the previous Norman Wells daycare board, did not answer requests for comment.

McDonald is hoping to change that and is seeking community support to get the daycare going again. She recently held an information meeting in Norman Wells in an effort to attract potential board members to help

restart the facility. Unfortunately, only three people attended.

"That was really discouraging," she said, adding she believes that despite the low turnout, a program for younger children is needed.

McDonald, who said it doesn't make sense for Norman Wells not to have some sort of early childhood education program for preschoolers, would like to see the daycare return in its old form or as a preschool.

"My three-year-old is being watched by a babysitter, and he doesn't get a lot of interaction with other children his age," she said.

McDonald is considering her options, which include reopening the daycare as a private business, opening it as a preschool or reopening the not-for-profit facility.

If she chooses the latter, the easiest route would be to take over the old board, which would save on the paperwork needed to create a new board. However, she said she can't do that until the old board files its tax forms from 2012.

McDonald's efforts might also get a little assistance from the territorial government if Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley gets his way.

At the end of October, the Yellowknife representative, during question period, suggested the territory adopt a universal childcare program modelled after Quebec's $7-per-day daycare program. Bromley asked what was being done to provide affordable, quality, licensed child care facilities in all communities.

"Investing in our children is a priority of this government," said Education, Culture and Employment Minister Jackson Lafferty in reply.

Although Lafferty did not commit to any immediate changes, he said the department is closely examining how childcare is done in other jurisdictions, especially Quebec's $7-per-day daycare program.

In the meantime, ECE does provide support for not-for-profit daycare or preschool programs including start-up funding and ongoing operational support, assistance with programming ideas and planning, and centre visits by early childhood

program consultants, according to the department's website.

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