MAPLETON – Council has authorized staff to respond to a Request for Proposals to operate a before and after school program in Upper Grand District School Board facilities within the township.
Over the years Mapleton staff has received inquiries regarding the availability of childcare opportunities within the township, states a report from recreation manager Amy Grose.
The report notes the recreation department recently conducted a survey regarding the need for summer camp programs in Mapleton, which also asked about other programs families wanted to see.
“The results showed a tremendous demand for before and after school programs,” the report states.
The report explains Grose was invited to join Mayor Gregg Davidson at a meeting with local UGDSB trustee Robin Ross, at which “we were assured that our survey results were consistent with the one conducted by the school board.
“We have also been informed that the school board will provide the space required to implement the program within the schools,” Grose noted.
Although the deadline to submit RFPs requesting the board facilitate programs for the 2021-22 year has passed, Grose explained Mapleton has been given an extension to the deadline as staffing did not allow the application to be submitted by the original closing date.
“UGDSB is asking that we complete this process as soon as possible,” she noted.
“We are very aware that there is a need for child care within our municipality.”
Grose added, “Before and after school care is one of the hardest types to find for children.”
Councillor Paul Douglas stated he was not aware before and after school programs were “municipal led.”
Douglas said he thought such programs were run through a school board, or a YMCA-YWCA or child care centre.
“Is this pretty typical of what happens in other municipalities?” asked Douglas.
“It does happen,” replied Grose. “Definitely in a more urban area it would be a Y or traditionally a child care centre that would run it.”
Grose noted there is some “funding and subsidies through the county as well” for such programs.
“The RFP goes out every year and none of these Y’s or groups have chosen Mapleton as where they want to run programs,” said Davidson.
“The same problem exists when it comes to child care centres. Operationally, having a Y do it is a lot better, not one has yet stepped up to want to do that for Mapleton.”
Davidson continued, “So this is an opportunity for the Township of Mapleton, though the recreation program, to offer this programming at the school, still covering the cost though the fees and offering fee subsidies through the county to people that need to have subsidized child care.”
“So if this was run, for example, at Drayton Heights, would children from Community Christian School be able to access the program as well?” asked councillor Marlene Ottens.
“They pay the taxes. They’d be subsidizing the cost.”
Grose explained, “Generally what happens is students have to be enrolled in the Upper Grand District School Board … it is offered within their building, their school.”
Ottens replied, “But if the township is subsidizing this, the school is not offering the program. It’s just being held in that building.
“Then, as a township service, would it not be accessible to all township children?”
“You’re assuming that the township’s subsidizing it?” said Davidson.
“Just because we’re running it doesn’t mean it’s subsidized. There are fee subsidies through the child care program of the County of Wellington, which is offered for childcare period, for people that need assistance. But if this is run by our department and the cost is neutral there’s no subsidy involved.”
Councillor Dennis Craven said, “I feel the Community Christian School should be allowed to attend this.
“If it’s our initiative, then why can’t we say that we welcome them to come to it?”
“It’s because it’s an Upper Grand school board RFP,” Davidson responded.
“If the Community Christian School wants to host one in their school … that’s up to them. This is Upper Grand District School Board schools, so we’re talking your schools within the township that would be open to this: Alma, Centre Peel, Drayton and Moorefield.”
“So if we want to allow them to come, we’d have to take it to another building other than a school?” suggested Craven.
“That becomes a totally different type of program,” Grose replied.
“That becomes a licensed child care program. What we’re offering to do is a recreation program. We’re basically entering the RFP with the Upper Grand District School Board to run their programs out of their schools for their kids.”
Grose added, “It gives an opportunity for a large amount of children within our municipality to have quality care before and after school allowing their parents to work and it will help sustain our economic development of our communities as well.”
Councillor Michael Martin said, “I don’t really have a strong opinion on before or after school programs, but I also don’t think I have enough information really to form an option on a before or after school program at the moment.”
He added, “I guess it leads to my bigger concern, particularly around this proposal, is I think … the reason I don’t have the information is that it appears there’s been legwork happening on this in the background. There’s been meetings with the Upper Grand District School Board … for me I think that, philosophically, council should have talked about this before staff time or meeting.”
Martin pointed out, “We didn’t talk about this in budget time,” adding “as much as the goal would be for cost recovery, gotta be honest, that rarely happens.
“I really feel like I’m in the dark on this one and it’s not a good feeling to be honest.”
Davidson replied, “This was not something that was done behind the scenes, as councillor Martin is alluding to.
“Amy has styled this as part of her job and when it came to a meeting that I was having with … the trustee I invited Amy to come to listen.”
Davidson said the idea of a Mapleton before and after school program was brought up by the trustee.
“It was something that I didn’t even expect to come up at this meeting … I just wanted Amy to meet the school board trustee because she’s doing programming for children,” said the mayor.
“We need before and after school programming in the Township of Mapleton.
“This is an opportunity for the township to step up because no one else is stepping up to do it here. We’re not going to get a child care centre here any time soon and we need to have a before and after school program.”
“I don’t dispute the need for this,” said Ottens.
“I do recall from different county-based reports that Mapleton has a higher percentage of children under 18 than any other township in the county and by a very wide margin … and ironically, we’re the also the only one without child care.”
Ottens added, “So I can see that this program is necessary and ideally if this comes to a head and becomes something, then it would be nice if it could be expanded wherever it’s warranted and I’ll just leave it at that.”
“There is a demand for it. It’s just too bad we can’t include the Christian school,” agreed Craven.
“I would agree that the demand is there,” said Martin.
“But I just think we really need to pace ourselves and make sure a process is followed and that whether it’s Drayton, Alma, Maryborough Public Schools, if it gets rolled out then I think we need to have the ability to see where the demand is in each centre.
“So all I’m saying is it’s a process and it’s a process that should be led by council and that’s how I’d like it to be. So I’d just like to get some more information before we actually make a decision on that.”
Grose pointed out the school board requested the RFP be submitted promptly as the process had already closed.
“I will say I know that other municipalities that are currently successfully operating this program are contacting the school board about running this program in our schools,” she noted.
Martin presented a motion, seconded by Douglas, to defer further discussion until more information, including budget requirements, is available.
Davidson noted a delay could mean “there could be a possibility that the Upper Grand District School Board will say ‘No thank you.’”
Craven said, “So If we defer it right now that would mean that the Upper Grand board would probably make our decision for us.”
Davidson responded, “It could be problematic.”
CAO Manny Baron suggested if the motion was deferred “in the background we can fill out the RFP and gather more information and be ready for the next council meeting.
Martin said, “I know motions to defer aren’t debatable, but since were engaging …”
“They are debatable,” replied Davidson.
“They’re not,” Martin insisted.
“They are,” Davidson said.
“It’s in the procedural bylaw,” said Martin.
(Note: Mapleton’s procedural bylaw prohibits debate on motions to defer and motions to adjourn.)
“I’m not suggesting that I don’t like the idea,” Martin said. “I would just say that we don’t have enough information.
“I just want to make sure we don’t’ say go ahead and submit the RFP and once it’s done, we ixnay it because we don’t like it. That’s not cool. That’s not fair to you, Amy, or to anybody.”
The motion to defer was defeated 3-2, with Martin and Douglas in favour and Davidson, Ottens and Craven opposed.
The motion to proceed with the RFP was approved by the same margin, with Davidson, Ottens and Craven in favour and Martin and Douglas opposed.