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New Toronto school child care centres face uncertainty amid cost concerns

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) say they are struggling to get brand new school child care centres built, and chairs for both tell Global News provincial approval delays are part of the problem.

The combined roughly 50 centres would mean thousands of badly-needed spaces for children. In 2017, the boards were provided with funding by the province to have the facilities built.

Ontario’s Ministry of Education says the province offered a 25-per cent top-up to help the boards get shovels in the ground. The boards say given soaring construction costs, that’s insufficient.

“We have to wait for approval at multiple steps in the process,” said Rachel Chernos Lin, chair of the TDSB.

While Education Minister Stephen Lecce has publicly accused the boards of dragging their feet on the issue, Chernos Lin says that couldn’t be further from the case.

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In a status update on TDSB child care centres, the board points to “significant delays by the ministry” for ATP (approval to proceed).” It adds that combined with “Ministry benchmarks” that are not reflective of current construction costs, it is unable to move forward without significant additional funding.

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According to the report, it’s estimated the project costs will exceed recent funding approved by the Ministry by 43 per cent for 17 child care centres.

“We find that each time that we wait…for approval and we finally get approval and we go out to tender, the costs have gone up significantly,” said Chernos Lin. “Then we don’t have enough funding to actually go ahead.”

Click to play video: 'Parents express concern after Toronto child care centre announces closure'

Parents express concern after Toronto child care centre announces closure

TCDSB chair Nancy Crawford says her board has projects ready to move on to the next phase, but insufficient funding is also hindering them.

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The board tells Global News it was given $29.4 million to build more than 1,000 child care spaces at 20 schools.

Crawford says at this stage, building costs have shot up 100 per cent.

“We do have projects ready to go, absolutely,” she said during an interview Thursday. “We do not have full funding for them.”

Under the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system, the Ontario government has pledged to create a total of 86,000 new spaces by December 2026.

Lecce vows the province will meet its target by pursuing alternatives like non-profit, for-profit, community and home-based models.

“We cannot afford to wait, and I’m not waiting seven more years for school boards to get their act together,” he told Global News.

“We’re building 19,000 spaces for Toronto families and we’re going to continue working in good faith with our school boards across Ontario to do that.”

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