The Groupe Communautaire de St-Albert will be getting $50,000 from The Nation municipality for its 24-hour daycare program.
At its meeting on Monday evening, council approved the donations. Councillor Marc Laflèche stepped away during the vote since he is part of the co-op daycare.
“We’re very happy,” said Julie Keravel, responsible for administration. “Being a not-for-profit, we’re trying to be self-sufficient, and the donations certainly help.” She added, “this shows the municipality supports our project and our vision.”
The project has been in the works since February 2016 after meetings were held regarding declining enrollment at l’École élémentaire catholique Saint-Albert. The number of students there has been on a steady decline for the past 10 years. Between the 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 school years, enrollment dropped from 106 to 71 students after seventh and eighth-graders were moved to a middle school in Casselman.
After meetings in early 2016, the group formed and identified the need for an extended-hour daycare program, and decided the best way to do so would be as a co-op. Over the summer, it began fundraising—at last year’s curd festival, the group made $7,700.
The group’s goal was to sell 100 shares within the first year, so far it’s sold 72 at $300 each for a total of $21,600.
Other community partners have also kicked in some cash: St-Albert cheese factory gave $20,000 to help with construction and renovations to the old Caisse populaire Nouvel-Horizon. The Nation’s donation will go in part towards the renovations as well. The group took over the building in January and has since expanded the back of the building for its main entrance. Keravel said what was supposed to take a week or two of demolition only took three days with the help of 45 volunteers.
“We have to recognize all our volunteers,” she said. “They went above and beyond our expectations.”
The group received $30,000 from the United Counties for supplies: chairs, tables, beds, etc., and the local Optimist Club donated $2,500 and is organizing an spaghetti supper on June 9, with all proceeds going to towards the daycare.
Last month, the group hired Isabelle Cooney as the daycare’s director and started interviewing for regular employees.
At the meeting on Monday, Cooney said the daycare will need four employees “easily” based on current demand.
Sign-up started in April and so far parents of 58 kids said they were interested; of those, 17 are registered, with most being between one and two years old.
The program would run 24 hours, seven days a week, which requires a special license from the province. While the majority of the demand is for regular working hours, Cooney said there are already four or five kids registered for service during the extended hours, including later evenings and even drop-offs at 4:30 in the morning.
“The municipality should support the program,” said Mayor St. Amour. “It’s a small incubator to keep the school open. We’ve all see that when schools close it destroys a village.”
The daycare is only the group’s first project, according to Keravel. Once it’s up and running, “we’ll be able to look at other projects to support our families in St-Albert,” she said.
The daycare’s grand opening is expected to be in mid-summer with things ready to go for the new school year in September.