Even though Teddy Bear Daycare will cease operation at the end of this month, day care has not been completely scrapped from Maurice Young Millennium Place Society’s agenda.
In reaction to public outcry, the society has decided to issue a request for proposals for a third-party to operate the day care space for a 12-month period, which could begin as early as July 1 st this year.
This announcement was made in a joint statement issued by the society and the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation after the two groups met Tuesday, June 3 to discuss the society’s decision to shut the doors on Teddy Bear Daycare.
Sue Adams, chair of the society board, said the board had discussed possibly opening up the facility to be operated by a third party at the last board meeting when reviewing the community reaction to close the current day care.
“It just seemed like it was a compromise, and our board had discussed this at our last board meeting saying that if there was a third party operator willing to come in, then we would certainly entertain that,” said Adams.
“We decided that we could still continue with what we do as a society at this point, and continue to work around the day care.”
Kathie Watters, customer for Teddy Bear Daycare, said she was excited to hear the latest news.
“We are thrilled,” said Watters.
“This is great news to know that all of our efforts with petitions and council meetings and meetings with the board of directors were successful. It is nice to see that us little people, the backbone of the community, are not getting pushed around and we are actually listened to. This is huge.”
Watters said with the closing of Teddy Bear Daycare, she had been looking at other options for her daughter that “weren’t the greatest.”
“This is a huge relief that things are going to stay the same and my daughter can stay with her friends and hopefully the same care givers,” she said.
At least two operators, Whistler-Blackcomb and Mark Warner Whistler Day Care, have separately announced interest over the past few months to operate the day care as a third-party.
But in a letter issued by the society on May 16, and distributed at the following council meeting, the society rejected both groups’ offers.
“We did not anticipate the interest expressed by Whistler Blackcomb (and Mark Warner Group) to operate daycare in the Teddy Bear space,” read the letter, which was signed by board of directors members Adams, vice-chair Diana Lyons and treasurer Fiona Famulak.
“We discussed this as a board and concluded that we cannot entertain offers because of the potential impact on our charitable status.”
Now that the society has agreed to look at a third-party operator, both Whistler-Blackcomb and the Mark Warner group intend to submit proposals.
“Obviously there has been a lot of community funds put into it over the years, and our staff have indicated to us that there is a need for that kind of day care in town, based on its proximity to the village and our operations,” said Otto Kamstra from Whistler-Blackcomb.
He added that even though there is enough day care space in town, Spring Creek is hard to get to for families living north of Creekside.
“I hope this gets resolved,” said Kamstra on Wednesday afternoon.
“I think there is a lot of parents out there that are quite concerned. I’ve gotten a couple calls already this morning, asking what is going on.”
James Arnold, Canadian operating manager for the U.K.-based Mark Warner group, also said his group would like to operate the day care.
“We are just trying to do everything we can to help out the childcare situation in Whistler,” said Arnold.
“I think whoever gets it will increase the opportunity in the selection of the parents, which is most important I think.”
The issue received attention after local parents spoke out about the need for the day care centre to stay open, underlined by a petition organized by parent Jennifer Abbot which garnered over 300 signatures.
The joint statement issued MY Millennium Place Society and Whistler Blackcomb Foundation also announced that several studies will be done over the next year to assess Whistler’s future childcare needs, including an assessment by the Childcare Working Group.
A functional review of MY Place will also be done and an economic impact study of arts and culture will be conducted.
The MY Place Society will cease operation of Teddy Bear Daycare on June 30, but the space will not be altered or re-purposed until the above analyses are completed.