St. Anthony day-care centre in limbo

By Valencia Grant

The staff of the Dalhousie Parents’ Day-Care Centre suspect their program faces eviction in the debate over the closure of St. Anthony’s elementary school, without the required lease to plead their case.

Since August, they’ve been staying rent-free without either a copy of a lease or a bill from the Ottawa-Carleton Catholic School Board.

Nancy Campbell, the day care administrative co-ordinator, says this is out of character with the board, which made sure a lease was drafted, and the rent was paid at the day care’s former location on Louisa Street, from where they moved last August.

The staff say the situation is suspect in light of the board’s announcement last month that it wants to vacate the 100-year-old building in September and move students to the 1968 McNabb public school.

McNabb was one of several schools closed in 1999 by the public school board.

There are three alternative public high schools in the building — the Richard Pfaff Secondary Alternate Program, First Place and Reality Check — representing 250 students.

Now the day care staff have little faith that the program, which cares for 57 children , can survive another move so soon.

The day care has already paid $44,000 for renovations. The money was collected during 14 years of fundraising. Under a child care capital grant, the former region paid the remaining 80 per cent of the $220,000 renovations.

But the city is supposed to forward the second half of its grant only after it sees a copy of the signed lease — which the day care does not have.

Campbell says she is banking on the city’s goodwill to help the centre out of its current impasse. Provincial regulations allow for a building to be passed on to a municipality if other schools refuse to accept responsibility for it.

The St. Anthony’s elementary school building will be offered to other school boards if it is vacated.

“I think for us the best thing would be that the city could take over this building and use it for the community, including the day care,” she says.

“That would be the best outcome for us,” says Campell.

Until a decision is made by the board, the staff is left questioning its motives regarding the non-existent lease.

Phil Rocco, the board’s director of education, says the thought that anything is suspect about the day care not having a lease is “ridiculous.”

“It’s not that they’re getting the building rent-free. Since they had just moved there from St. Agnes and there had been a lot of disruption with regard to the move, they haven’t maybe gotten their bill yet. It’s in the mail!” he adds.

Sandra Carquez, the day care program co-ordinator, suggests their move should have been handled more professionally by the board.

“When Nancy called the business office, a guy said ‘We’re not a fly-by-night operation.You’re dealing with the Catholic School Board,” says Carquez.

“We had a reputation with them. We thought in good faith that they would follow through on it,” adds the day care program co-ordinator.