With a construction completion date set nearly two years after various funding and building approval delays, the University of Saskatchewan is reporting its new Childcare Centre as being on schedule and potentially under budget.
The U of S Students’ Union originally founded the Childcare Centre, which now operates independently as an affiliated organization with a separate Board of Directors.
Currently, the university has two facilities that offer childcare. With a wide variety of activities offered, the facilities encourage all areas of development for children from 18 months to six years of age. With a minimum requirement of a two-year diploma from the Early Childhood Education program, the staff is fully qualified and experienced.
The centre is located south of the R.J. Williams Building and west of the Souris Hall residence building, and its projected completion date is set for sometime in January 2016. It will include the capacity to provide 90 additional spaces for children and will also give the university three facilities on campus with a total of 200 childcare spaces. Considering the large waiting list for childcare at the U of S, the facility expansion will benefit those students who are in need.
Patti McDougall, vice-provost teaching and learning at the U of S, is eager to report that the project is progressing as planned and will meet its $4.6 million budget. However, McDougall adds that projects such as this must always have a contingency amount built in to cover unexpected costs associated with the build.
“I am extremely pleased to report that we have expended very little of the contingency fund to date. Each dollar that we save from building this new childcare centre will be saved for re-investment into the next childcare expansion project,” McDougall said in an email to the Sheaf.
Looking ahead, McDougall is optimistic about the centre’s continuing progress.
“I remain hopeful that the project will finish under budget and I will be watching carefully throughout the duration of the build.”
A study conducted in the fall of 2013 at the university estimated that approximately eight per cent of U of S students, both undergraduate and graduate, are parenting.
According to McDougall, it is the responsibility of the university to remove barriers for students seeking to complete a post-secondary education while also raising children.
“[Students] need to access quality care for their children in order to pursue these academic endeavours. By building a facility that will significantly increase the number of childcare spaces we have available for students, the university positions more students for success,” McDougall said.
Jack Saddleback, U of S Students’ Union president, has also been a leading supporter of the project and insists the structure will improve overall student life.
“The new Childcare Centre and the overall expansion of childcare spaces benefits our university greatly by helping to remove barriers, such as access to childcare, for students at our campus,” Saddleback said.
McDougall agrees that the centre will be an asset to the university, as it builds a stronger community on campus.
“The direct beneficiaries of the new centre will clearly be the children who are cared for when the building is complete and operations commence. The parents of these children, students, staff and faculty will be able to pursue their academic and professional work with confidence in their childcare arrangement,” she said.
According to McDougall, the expansion will work to contribute to the overall campus community by not only making post-secondary education more accessible to parents, but also by adding a youthful exuberance to the shared space.
“Having children present on the campus, as we do in two other locations, adds to the richness and diversity of campus life.”