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Millennium Place daycare back in operation

But following months of ambiguity, attendance at the Teddy Bear Daycare is low

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Whistler-Blackcomb is now operating the daycare in the Maurice Young Millennium Place that was originally scheduled to close June 30 this summer. The third party operator took over the Teddy Bear Daycare on July 1 and will continue to run the daycare for the next year, said Sue Adams, chair of the MY Millennium Place’s Society board.

“We are glad that it is resolved,” said Adams about the contested daycare, whose future has been uncertain for months.

“It is good that families were able to either relocate or keep their kids in the program. We feel good about that, and this actually gives us some breathing space.”

On June 3, the society board issued a request for proposals for a third-party to operate the day care space for a 12-month period, following the public outcry to the planned closure. Two candidates submitted proposals, including Whistler-Blackcomb.

But now that Teddy Bear Daycare is back in operation after such a long period of ambiguity, attendance at the childcare centre has decreased significantly.

According to Kelly Foran, who has worked at the Teddy Bear Daycare for the past five years, the number of kids currently at the facility varies between four and 12.

“Everybody had arrangements to go other places, because we decided so late to keep it open, so we are running at a pretty low capacity right now,” said Foran.

“We have had a few drop-ins, but hopefully all our other clients who have made arrangements elsewhere will come back. A few of them are coming back. They just have to do their time at other places.”

Rob McSkimming from Whistler-Blackcomb said that other than the low attendance, operations at the Teddy Bear Daycare are per usual. The daycare is currently operating Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., although plans are in the works to open it up seven days a week. Resident rates have increased to $50 for the day, and $35 for a half day, although monthly rates are also available.

“Daycare is obviously really important for the community and for the people that work for us and for everyone that lives here,” said McSkimming.

“We are just happy we could help to keep this thing going for at least the next year. Hopefully it’ll give everyone some time to figure things out and where we’ll go from there.”

Over the next year, the MY Millennium Place Society and the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation also plan to conduct several studies to assess Whistler’s future childcare needs, including an assessment by the Childcare Working Group. A functional review of MY Millennium Place will also be conducted, as well as an economic impact study of arts and culture in Whistler.

The society’s decision to shut the doors on the daycare came this fall after the board of directors confirmed that MY Millennium Place’s strategic direction is to focus on culture and arts. The daycare was running at a net loss and required huge subsidies from the society to continue to operate.

After it was announced that the daycare would close, several local parents spoke out and a petition organized by parent Jennifer Abbot garnered over 700 signatures.

Teddy Bear Daycare first opened in 2001 to meet a perceived need in the community for more after-hours, weekend and tourist drop-in childcare.

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