New early child care centre on Vanier in the works
With child care registration waiting lists at an all-time high, the Centre Éducatif la Passerelle is seeking to provide access to more families – with plans of establishing a new child care centre in Aylmer. Municipal council had given residents until June 29 to voice concerns about the project through written submissions. Since the location isn’t zoned to accommodate such a project, council must approve a conditional use for residential zoning to make it possible and is set to make its final decision on July 7.
Slated to be built on 147 chemin Vanier, next to l’École des Rapides-Deschênes, the new centre will benefit local families in the west of Gatineau where the demand for child care services is high. “We’re not able to respond to the need,” said its founder and owner of the Centre Éducatif la Passerelle on rue Mutchmore in Hull, Zohra Soufiani. “We have an enormous number of people who come to us from the Plateau, from Aylmer particularly … it’s been a number of years that we’ve been fully booked up.”
With an approximately 4,500-square-foot building on a 2,700-square-metre property, the new child care centre could accommodate up to 80 children, according to Soufiani. She plans to name it along the lines of the Centre Éducatif la Passerelle Vanier or Aylmer, continuing on the legacy her family established in Hull and providing a sense of familiarity for locals. Among other things, Soufiani intends to provide children education on environmental preservation by creating a community garden and using rain barrels.
Subsidized by the Quebec Ministry of families, parents will only be required to pay $8.35 per day, while noting that the government’s support covers approximately $37 per day for each child. For the time being the Quebec government will only help pay for 52 spots, but Soufiani hopes the number will increase in the near future to benefit more families. The staff is already being assembled for the centre which will also result in at least new 10 jobs.
Having worked on the project for the last five years, Soufiani said her family is fully dedicated to the project - noting that they will pay for its entire cost, barring the provincial government’s financial support. “The government is not subsidizing the construction, the purchase of the land, the purchase of the building, or equipment,” Soufiani said. “All that is personal investment.”
The building requires some renovation, notably roofing and stabilization work. Soufiani estimated that, if approved, the project will be completed either in December or by the start of next year. “The Ministry of Family is asking us to go as fast as possible to lower the waiting list,” Soufiani said, noting that some families can wait up to five years to place their child.
Despite some residents’ concerns about how daily pick-ups and drop-offs will affect traffic on Vanier, Councillor Mike Duggan believes the new location would feature a safe drop-off zone for families. He added that he understood those preoccupations, considering that the facility is set to be located next to one of the largest elementary schools in the province. “There’s a lot of coming and going … but they’re probably not going to notice any difference,” Duggan said. “All concerns are valid. But those ones are based on suspicion. People are not going to be dropping their kids off just anywhere. Parents go inside the building with their children.”
Judging from experience, Soufiani thinks an increase of traffic shouldn’t be an issue, noting that typically no more than two or three families drop off their kids or pick them up at the same time. Highly in favour of the project due to the great demand, and its potential economic and social impact, Duggan said the project is of utmost importance for local families. Duggan said the project was presented to Gatineau’s Comité consultatif d’urbanisme (CCU) on May 25, who recommended it unanimously.
Initially hoping for the project to be completed in September, Soufiani said COVID-19 played a role in extending the project’s timeline. Having run a successful child care centre in the region for almost 20 years, Soufiani believes her track record of sustainability and cooperation with local families, partners and authorities is indisputable. As one of the longest tenured operators in the region, she has worked in child care services for more than two decades and has served on different coordination committees in the Outaouais, including the Place 0-5’s administrative council.