Student demographics at the University of Saskatchewan are constantly shifting and an increasing number of undergraduate students need access to daytime child care, a need that the U of S Students’ Union has addressed with a brand new childcare facility.
On Oct. 17, the official opening of the new McEown location of the USSU Childcare Centre took place, 25 years after the original opening of the R.J.D. Williams Building location in 1991. With the new facility, costing approximately $4.3 million, the capacity of the childcare centres has more than doubled from 66 spaces to 156 spaces.
Jake Pushie, researcher in the department of surgery, chair of the board of directors for the centres and father of one daughter in the childcare program, explains what drove the creation of both the Williams Building and McEown locations.
“It was really to meet the needs of the undergraduate students who were parents … A perpetual problem everywhere in the country is getting accessible [and affordable] childcare spaces, especially for students that don’t have a lot of disposable income,” Pushie said. “So having something affiliated with the university … takes some of the stress off the parents for taking care of a lot of the childcare needs.”
The Childcare Centre primarily serves undergraduate and graduate students with children, but with the new facility, a small number of spaces are now available for U of S faculty and staff. Additionally, when parents graduate, their children can remain at the Centre as long as the parents are still affiliated with the university as faculty or staff, although students remain the priority.
The centres are open year round from Monday to Friday, 7:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., and prices vary depending on the age of the enrolled child. Both centres accept children aged six months to six years and feature a highly trained staff team, each with level three Early Childhood Educator certification, the highest certification possible, according to Pushie.
For Pushie and his wife, the childcare centres are much more than just daycare facilities.
“It’s an early learning centre for children. So they have programs [that incorporate] these elements of play and exploration, which is sort of part of this early childhood development model for just getting kids to experience the world and getting them ready for school … I think this was hugely beneficial to our children … to have a larger group to interact with and socialize with and normalize that day-to-day,” Pushie said. “The kids have learned more appropriate sort of conflict resolution skills by going through the Childcare Centre.”
Students who wish to enroll their children in the program should call or email the Childcare Centre to have their name put on the waiting list. Pushie explains that now is the best time to do so because the waiting list, which has been exceptionally long for years, was exhausted with the opening of the new centre.
According to Pushie, 30 per cent of the spaces at the centres are reserved from the children of Aboriginal students. He also shares that the Centre has plans to expand the original Williams Building location from the current 66 spaces to 89 spaces.
The centres also provide a healthy, balanced diet and include children in meal preparation in order to teach them about healthy food choices. In addition, the centres partner with local schools, like Brunskill School, providing drop-off and pick-up services for children in half-day kindergarten programs, a service not offered by many other facilities in Saskatoon.
For Pushie, the opening of the McEown facility is ultimately about creating accessible education for growing numbers of undergraduate student parents, whether mature students or those starting families earlier in life.
“I think part of this is about making education accessible … The students that are also parents have a pretty heavy burden to be able to come and access undergraduate and graduate education … Whether it’s cost or you can’t find childcare close to the university, that can have a significant impact on when you can take your classes [and] what classes you can take.”
Jessica Klaassen-Wright / News Editor
Photo: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor