January 2020 will mark the beginning of a new era for Capital Daycare, as the former cooperative officially amalgamates with Andrew Fleck Children Services (AFCS). The merger of our local daycare—which has been operating for over 45 years in the basement of Trinity Anglican Church—and the largest non-profit childcare provider in the city of Ottawa bodes well for the future of one of our neighbourhood’s most cherished institutions.
Since parents and staff voted in favour of amalgamation last May, AFCS has been actively involved in upgrading the centre and sketching Capital's future in consultation with Trinity. Under the leadership of Reverend Arran Thorpe, the Church has renewed its commitment to maintaining Capital Daycare in the building and is working closely with AFCS. Although Capital Daycare operates independently, the centre’s origin story is linked to Trinity. The daycare was originally founded by the Church in 1973 as a response to shifting societal needs, as more women in the neighbourhood joined the workforce and more families looked for quality childcare in the area. The two organizations have had a harmonious relationship ever since.
AFCS and Trinity have wasted no time planning for their future partnership. The two are currently in conversations with CSV Architects to renovate the daycare space, playground, and shared spaces. The plans include moving the daycare from the large room where it currently operates into a series of adjacent rooms currently underused by the Church. The renovated space would fit the existing toddler and preschool programs, and there are plans to create an additional infant program by involving the community and the city in this initiative – this would make Capital one of few centres in Ottawa offering much-needed infant care.
In the meantime the toddler and pre-school programs have already received new carpets, tables and toddler couches, electronic tablets, and a fresh coat of paint. New blinds now hang from the large windows, which has made naptime a bit easier for preschoolers and educators alike. The children’s bathrooms have been recently upgraded, and new gates were installed outside, effectively increasing the outdoor play area and creating two separate spaces so that both toddlers and preschoolers can now enjoy fresh air in the afternoon, instead of taking turns. In addition, the Church has been replacing all of its roofs, and Capital has applied for city funding to fully renovate the centre’s kitchen.
Those familiar with the daycare will perhaps remember the large hockey bag carrying soiled linen and kitchen towels that parents had to wash as part of their co-op duties. Through an AFCS connection, laundry service is now done off site by students attending the Community Living (developmentally disabled) Class ‘Sunny Room 13’ at Carleton Heights Public School. Capital pays the students for their service and the students use the money for special outings and activities.
The initiative is a win-win, as the class is contributing and in turn earning money for special lunches and activities. This service will also allow Capital to switch from using paper towels to wash cloths. In terms of programming, AFCS is planning to train Capital’s staff in outdoor educational experiences, and is looking for opportunities for nature exploration with the children in near-by green spaces.
The decision to amalgamate with AFCS was not an easy one for the Capital Daycare community. The elected Board of Directors and staff agonized over hours of discussions, many of them emotional and difficult, for well over two years. The final decision to go with AFCS came with some hard compromises. Yet as the date of official amalgamation approaches, there is no question that AFCS is committed to Capital’s long-term health. Some in the community might have seen the decision to join AFCS as a capitulation in the face of adversity and an abandonment of the cooperative model and its values. The truth is that the daycare cooperative model has been unravelling for well over a decade in our city, and only a handful of centres are now able to survive under this ideal. This became painfully clear as the Ottawa Federation of Child Care Centres, a coalition of cooperative daycares that had sustained several centres in Ottawa dissolved earlier this year, leaving each centre to deal with heavy administrative duties and staff taking on more work that they could possibly bear, with no clear path for their future. AFCS’s interest in Capital Daycare arrived at a crucial time when the future of our daycare was in danger. This partnership ensures that Capital’s outstanding staff, in coordination with Trinity and the surrounding community, will continue to provide quality childcare care in our neighbourhood for many years to come.
Gabriela Perdomo is an Old Ottawa South resident and former member of Capital Daycare's Board of Directors.
Originally published in the December 2019 OSCAR.