The university has shelved its idea to convert the century-old seed barn on College Drive into a refitted childcare centre and is pursuing plans to build a brand new facility instead.
“The plans are done for the barn,” said Facilities Management Division coordinator Rea Carlson, who is working with the office of the associate vice-president student affairs to double the number of available childcare spaces on campus by 2014.
“We did a cost analysis on a design for the seed-barn and concluded that the overall cost to fit that building up was over and above what the project could support.”
A structural engineering report showed the barn would need extensive remediation to ensure it would be safe to house children.
Instead, preliminary schematics for a new single-story building next to Souris Hall at the far southwest corner of College Quarter have been designed. The facility would create 90 childcare spaces, including six for infants, 10 for toddlers and the rest for three- to six-year-olds.
There are currently 110 child care spots available on campus for university students, faculty and staff. The new facility will push the total to 200.
Carlson and her team studied childcare facilities from across the world throughout the development of the original plan, and those ideas will be integrated into the new design.
“We’re trying to open up the living functions — like the kitchen area and the laundry area — to make them more accessible and open to learning for the children,” Carlson said.
She says the design of the facility draws inspiration from the Reggio Emilia approach to children’s education, a philosophy based on exploration and self-guided discovery.
“We really want to integrate some of those ideas into this new build,” she said, “but ultimately it is going to come down to costs.”
Early estimates put the cost of the new facility at roughly $4.8 million.
Associate Vice-President Student Affairs David Hannah said in January that funding for university childcare should come from “roughly equal donations from the government, the university, students and donors through a fundraising campaign.”
In May 2011, the provincial government earmarked $1.4 million for 110 new childcare spaces at the university. But given the new facility will only create 90 spaces, a slice of that cash — roughly $100,000 — will be retracted.
The university has stated it would support the project but has not confirmed an official amount.
“We’re certainly planning on the assumption that the university will be contributing in the neighbourhood of a million dollars or a bit better,” Hannah said.
Hannah asked the university students’ council earlier this year to hold a referendum to increase student fees over the next several years to help fund the project but was denied.
Council did, however, agree to support a $5 per term blanket increase in student fees imposed by the university and not the union. The fee increase has been approved by the university and will affect both undergraduate and graduate students starting in fall 2013.
University Advancement is now canvassing alumni for donations.
Carlson said the next step is to request initial board of governors approval to move from pre-planning to the architectural design phase, which could begin in early 2013.
In 2010, the USSU executive wrote a letter to then president of the university Peter MacKinnon stressing the importance of more child care spaces on campus, which is what kick started the project.
USSU Vice-President Student Affairs Alex Werenka said the process has been moving painfully slowly.
“I think that a lot of people are getting pretty antsy to see this child care centre happen. It’s been in the works for quite awhile,” she said.
The U of S currently sits around the middle of the pack compared to other Canadian universities in terms of number of childcare spaces per capita.[box type=”info” icon=”none”]As the Sheaf reported last week the university has applied to have the land directly east of the Stadium Parkade rezoned for a future hotel development.
The plot is currently home to a green and white seed barn and the university is now in the process of determining the best way to move the 100-year-old structure.
Ron Cruikshank, director of planning and development for the university’s facilities management division, confirmed the university does not have plans to demolish the barn but could not say how the barn will be transported or where it will be moved to.
“There’s all that good wood in there, it’s a beautiful old building and we would rather reuse it and preserve it than knock it down,” David Hannah, associate vice-president of student affairs, told the Sheaf earlier this year.
The beach volleyball courts adjacent to the barn will be taken down and the USSU is in the process of finding a new location at College Quarter for the beach courts.[/box]
Photos: Shan Lu & Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf