All-day kindergarten threatens daycares

Ontario's plan to launch all-day kindergarten in the fall could end up making daycare more expensive.

Ontario's plan to launch all-day kindergarten in the fall could end up making daycare more expensive. 

Daycare operators say the children in programs for four- and five-year-olds help to subsidize the cost of space for younger children. When thousands of children move from daycare to full-day kindergarten, the cost for babies and toddlers is expected to go up.

Now the Association of Daycare Operators in the province is asking the Ontario government to consider increasing child-to-staff ratios to help make infant and toddler care less expensive. 

Rosemary White, executive director of the Bond Street Nursery School in Toronto, describes her mood as "desolate."

She said she finds it "really difficult to accept that after 72 years of working with families and children that we won't be able to go on — that our [daycare] program will very likely have to close down." 

The Bond Street Nursery and other child-care centres across Ontario are facing a double-whammy this year. A federal transfer for child-care subsidies is running out and thousands of four- and five-year-olds will be going into full-day kindergarten in September.

Karen Eilerson, who runs a daycare in Barrie, said "the four- and five-year-olds are really what keep us viable  — and so when those are pulled out of our centres, it's really going to be hard for us to make ends meet."

Eilerson and other members of the association have asked the government to allow an increase in the child-to-staff ratios to make infant and toddler care less expensive, something the government says it will consider.

"[Regular daycare fees] don't truly reflect the cost of infant and toddler child care," said Eilerson. 

The prospect of fees increasing and centres shutting down is a worry for parents such as Sara Santos, who has two children under five — one of them at the Bond Street Nursery.

"The idea that this school would not be here next September, I just can't imagine," said Santos.

The provincial government is promising more subsidies for children under four years old, but isn't saying how much.