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Daycare desperately needed in Inuvik
Children's First Centre construction to start this winter

Samantha Stokell
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, September 22, 2011

Inuvik's daycare situation has come to be dire, with parents having to put their children on waiting lists as soon as they find out they're pregnant.

NNSL photo/graphic

Pictured above are plans for the new Inuvik Children's First Centre, to be located behind Arctic Foods. The centre will be a home for daycares, preschools and Aboriginal Headstart, and will be a permanent building dedicated to early childhood education. - graphic courtesy of ICDC

The Children First Society hopes that with the construction of a new early childhood centre in the community, it will meet the need, help the economy and give children a headstart in learning. Right now at the Inuvik Child Development Centre the largest preschool, daycare and after-school facility in Inuvik there is a waiting list of 57 for children between the ages of two and five.

"The person at the top of the list has been on it since 2008. They have to put their names in early or they won't get in," said Maryssa Camacho, executive director of Inuvik Child Development Centre (ICDC). "We have students at the college calling in June and now they're 50th on the list. It's hard to tell someone wanting to go to school that we can't take care of their children."

The child development centre currently has 42 seats; TotSpot daycare has 12 spots; Inuvik Preschool has 42 spots, of which five are empty; and Aboriginal HeadStart preschool has 33. The new centre will have 120 spots, which should ease pressure off the waiting list.

These four groups have formed a partnership to provide more early childhood services. As of right now, Inuvik has no designated early-childhood centre. TotSpot is in a trailer on Navy Road; Inuvik Preschool is in a small portable behind Sir Alexander Mackenzie School and ICDC is in the school, which will be torn down as soon as the new super school has been constructed.

With the new school scheduled to open a year earlier, the development centre will need a temporary space until the new Children's First Centre opens.

"We just need to be in a building designed for early childhood, to get children ready for school," said ICDC chair Paula Guy. "This is not a mother's issue, it's for anyone who has kids and everyone in the community. If we put all our efforts into programs when they're young, they will be in good shape for school and the gaps will close."

Peter Clarkson, a member of the construction committee, said not only would this project benefit parents and children, but the entire community and economy of Inuvik. If families consider moving to Inuvik to work, they likely look for childcare in the community. If none is available, they may not come, or stay long-term if they do.

"It's an important facility for everyone," Clarkson said. "To fundraise enough, there may need to be a huge up-swelling of support from the community."

While early childhood development does receive funding for programs, money for infrastructure is scarce to non-existent. Design work is complete and the land will soon be prepared for construction to start in April or May of 2012.

The project will cost approximately $4 million, although some in-kind donations have already been made: the land, moving of a gas line, site preparation, design costs at one-third of the price, and the pilings. With these contributions and fundraising which has raised just more than $1.5 million, the centre still needs $2.5 million for materials to actually build the facility.

"They're putting so much funding into when kids are in school, when really these are the foundation years," Guy said. "Early childhood programs have to be emphasized. There's so much effort going into closing the gap with aboriginal students in different communities but (the Department of Education, Culture and Employment) needs to know that children learn the most before they're five years old."

The new facility has designs for infant rooms, preschool rooms and after-school rooms, motor activity areas for all ages, nap rooms, dining areas, kitchens and offices. It will be designed for ages six months to 12 years and provide community health and wellness opportunities for early intervention and prevention programs.

Half of the proceeds from the RCMP Regimental Ball will go toward the Children First Society, which will also soon be hiring a project co-ordinator as it moves closer to completion. As always, volunteers are welcome, as are donations.

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