The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has approved an additional $340,000 toward the $2 million expansion of the Niagara Nursery School.
The money is in addition to $248,889 already promised by the town.
Candice Penny, executive director of the school, asked council for the extra money Monday, saying the request was a “make or break moment” for the expansion project.
She said the funds would help the school expand its much-needed child care services.
The school now only has room for 39 kids and the average wait time for enrolment is two to three years, Penny said.
“With many families requiring variable schedules, we can serve between 45 and 52 children throughout the school year,” she said.
The wait list is now at about 142 children.
She said this forces many families with more than one child to have them in multiple child care settings, often away from home and work.
The expansion will allow the school to accommodate 69 children.
Penny said that would not eliminate the wait list, but would “drastically reduce” wait times.
“We simply cannot meet the needs of our community as we are now,” Penny said, adding that it isn’t just an issue for current families, but for NOTL’s overall growth plan.
Accessible child care is important for the growth of the community in attracting new families, Penny said.
Niagara Nursery School has been operating in town for 48 years and has adapted through the years, operating out of various locations.
Paul Staz, treasurer for the nursery school, said the school has been ready to start fundraising since March, but delayed it due to the pandemic.
“We made the decision as a board to delay the launch for fundraising, given the kind of economic impact of COVID on the town. We didn’t think it was the right time to go and reach out.”
Staz said if the funding wasn’t approved, the school wouldn’t be able to move forward with the expansion project.
In addition to money from various levels of government and a $615,000 debenture, the school is responsible for fundraising $100,000 on its own.
Coun. Wendy Cheropita asked if there were ways to “shave” costs off the project by changing the design or retendering.
Town operations director Kevin Turcotte said it’s unlikely the cost would come down from retendering and that the current design layout is specific to the amount of space needed per child.
Town treasurer Kyle Freeborn said the municipality's debenture for the additional funds would cost about $21,000 annually.