On February 28th, 2017, the Northeast School Division sent a letter indicating the board’s support of Gronlid Little Giggles Daycare in establishing a provincially licensed daycare facility, utilizing unused space in Gronlid Central School.
In that letter, the NESD board made it clear that the Gronlid Little Giggles Daycare would be 100% responsible for all costs incurred and subject to numerous conditions, including signing a lease agreement and paying monthly lease payments to the school division.
Believing they had the full support of NESD, a group of Gronlid residents began working on fulfilling the extensive provincial requirements to establish their proposed daycare at the school.
On October 25th, 2017 the Director of Education for NESD sent a letter to Gronlid Little Giggles Daycare Inc. stating that “for various reasons, the North East School Division does not wish to lease space at Gronlid Central School to the Little Giggle Daycare Inc.“.
While some reasons have been offered to the GLG board members, no official response has been provided to them and none of the unofficial reasons seemed to justify the NESD’s position that they had changed their minds, less than 2 weeks after meeting on October 11, 2017 to go over the lease agreement.
“We have been very transparent through this process regarding funding, building and requirements. They had many opportunities through meetings and emails prior to October 11 meeting to collaborate and discuss any concerns. They were aware of all the hard work and dedication the GLG and community had put into this project. We feel at this point there is no appropriate reason as to why they would rescind their agreement with us.” GLG board explained in their statement, “We were very clearly not given an option to further discuss or make arrangements to proceed with our original arrangement.” “NESD told us that we should be proud of ourselves for getting this far. “
The ability to lease the unused space in Gronlid Central School was pivotal for the success of the daycare.
“The only other facility options in Gronlid to accommodate the daycare would need extensive renovations or the daycare would need to purchase the building first then put funds into renovations to make it compliant to become a licensed daycare. Either options would have cost the GLG well over hundred thousand dollars to finalize.” – Gronlid Little Giggles Daycare Inc board of director’s statement.
After receiving the letter, the GLG Daycare board chairperson, Kari Hiebert met, unsuccessfully, with the NESD board of directors and board chairperson to attempt to determine what the various reasons where and if there would be any opportunity to resolve whatever issues NESD had with the proposed agreement.
NESD Director of Education Responds
In a phone interview with Don Rempel, Director of Education for NESD, he stated that the board’s reason for the decision was primarily based on the fact that Gronlid Little Giggles Daycare Inc had not secured provincial approval for provincial funding, a factor they considered important to the financial feasibility of entering into an agreement with GLG.
Mr Rempel also cited that, though Gronlid School had been removed from review, they operate on a two year window, meaning Gronlid Central School would remain open in 2017 and 2018, however could be again subject to review after 2018. He stated that they could not offer GLG a long term lease, which he states they had requested, due to the uncertainty of the viability of the school.
When asked if there was anything GLG could do to resolve the issues, he stated that, should they obtain the provincial funding approval, they were welcome to resubmit their request to the NESD board.
In a response from Gronlid Little Giggles Daycare they pointed out, “Don Rempel was aware that we did not secure the provincial funding back on May 29th as well as the viability of the school has not changed in the past 9 months. If this was a concern why was it not addressed at the beginning?”
Extensive Time and Effort
In a written statement from the GLG Daycare board of directors they explain some of the work that went into the process, “Once the GLG received the letter in February we began committing countless hours, time and money into this process. We began meeting every week to get plans in place for our fundraising events, grants, and apply for business name and incorporated non-profit status through information service corporation. We contacted an accountant and GLG paid a lawyer to file the appropriate papers for us. To attend meetings and plan fundraising events the GLG board has dedicated time and money to make sure everything was successful. We always supported our events by personally purchasing items or tickets and canvassed the community for support. The time lost to attend these events and financial expenses incurred we felt were all part of making the daycare a success.“
As they began to towards their goal, GLG Daycare Board of directors met with the NESD and Ministry of Education Early Learning Years Branch at the Gronlid School on May 29th, 2017 at which time they provided a written one page business plan, walked through the school to present details on the rooms they would be using, and discussed where they were at financially. They continued to give updates through emails until they met again on October 11, 2017 to go over their lease agreement. According to the GLG board statement, no indication of the NESD’s intention to withdraw their support was ever communicated to the GLG Board of directors. They indicate in the statement that NESD seemed supportive and did not indicate any issues that would lead to them believing that they would not be continuing with the arrangements to lease space at Gronlid Central School.
The Role of Daycares in Schools in The Ministry of Education’s implementation of Saskatchewan’s Early Years Plan
In their statement, the Gronlid Little Giggles Board of Directors explain how daycares play an important role in local school communities and the Ministry’s plans for the future. “The Ministry of Education has put forward a sector goal to implement Saskatchewan’s Early Years Plan to increase quality of and access to early childhood learning. One of those pillars to achieve that goal is to enhance child care and make these centres part of the school communities. Currently there is no daycare or early learning opportunities in Gronlid (i.e., preschool, pre-k). We felt strongly that regardless of the size of the community (rural or urban) all children and families are entitled to the same opportunities as other communities. Our mission is, “ Gronlid Little Giggles Daycare Inc., will start up a licensed daycare facility that will specialize in high quality programs that engage young children ages 1 year to 12 years in experiencing learning through play and exploration.”
The importance of locating the daycare in the school for Gronlid residents
“There currently is no daycare or Early Childhood facility available in Gronlid. Parents currently look to their own families, friends and daycare facilities in surrounding towns for help. The nearest daycare is 34 km away creating many challenges for families in the rural area. The school was our only affordable option in Gronlid therefore, by locating the daycare in the school parents could drop off their school age children early while going to work. It would support families and their children that are unique learnings or experiencing disabilities to transition into the school system. We also found that the lack of child care in our rural area have often taken children into potentially dangerous situation involving farm machinery or large animals. Our goal was to support families surrounding Gronlid including Fairy Glen, Ridegdale, Armley, Choiceland and James Smith First Nations. Due to the rural characteristics Gronlid required a variety of childcare options including a) full time b) seasonal c) childcare beyond 9-5 working hours d) flex care (e.g., cover emergencies)“
NESD and the school community stand to benefit
The NESD could benefit from lowering the expenses due to GLG paying rent, shared caretaker expenses and they were going to be responsible for the cost of renovating the facility. Both NESD and Gronlid Central School could also benefit with having an early childhood program as an option in Gronlid, allowing transition plans to be put in place for children going into kindergarten. It would increase viability of the school and economic growth into the community.
About Gronlid Central School
In 2016, Gronlid Central School was placed under review for potential closure. In a press release on October 26th 2016, NESD announced they had passed a motion consenting to the discontinuation of grades 9 to 12 at Gronlid Central School. “The Board is satisfied that a school viability review to consider possible school closure is not warranted at this time. The projected number of students in grades Kindergarten to 8 indicate a K-8 school is viable according to the Board’s School Viability Policy. As a result, the Board of Education has decided that grades 9 to 12 at Gronlid Central School will be discontinued effective July 1, 2017 and that Gronlid Central School be removed from possible closure status. “
Gronlid Little Giggles Daycare Inc. is a Non-profit corporation registered with ISC on March 15, 2017. The GLG was formed to carry on activities for the purposes of its members rather than financial gains. Board Members legally listed with ISC include; Kari Hiebert – Chairperson, Lindsay Cochran –Vice-Chairperson, Heather Sturby – Secretary, Amy Hedin – Treasurer, and Michelle Hiebert – Communications Coordinator.
While at this time the GLG board are trying to reassess their options and are unsure if they will be able to move forward with their goal to establish a daycare in Gronlid, anyone that feel they may be of assistance in helping them secure a suitable location in Gronlid for their daycare can contact one of the board members or email them at glgdaycare @ gmail.com