Some may remember the Childcare Centre at Memorial University’s St. John’s campus when it first opened in 1976. At that time it was located in Corte Real, which is a part of the Burton’s Pond Residence Complex.
The centre was the creation of Memorial student leaders with help from the university administration. It opened as a pre-school and had about 20 children. Today, the centre has its own building on Burton’s Pond and over 150 children.
To mark this growth and milestones, the Childcare Centre held a festive reception on Jan. 29 to mark the anniversary of the opening of the new building and to celebrate over 30 years of excellence in childcare services the centre has delivered to the St. John’s campus. The reception was attended by centre staff, parents and their children, and by university, student and government officials.
Dr. Carole Peterson, a professor in Memorial’s Department of Psychology and one of the founders of the centre and chair for the last 27 years, recalled the early days.
“We had to struggle a bit in the early days to get our second centre licensed . . . the government of the day did not want to create a situation of multiple licenses per site,” Dr. Peterson said. “Most places had kindergarten children mixed in with the preschool children. We finally prevailed and we were the first centre in the province to have a licensed after school program.”
That kind of ground-breaking activity continues today and the centre is known for its innovative and often leading edge practices.
“We find that many of our ideas and some of the initiatives we take on voluntarily often become the standards and even become enshrined in regulation,” said Mary Linehan, the acting co-ordinator of the centre. “Our staff is very engaged with government officials and with the early childhood development and education community, and we pride ourselves on being one of the best childcare centres, not just in this province, but in Canada.”
Ross Wiseman, the minister of the Department of Health and Community Services was on hand to help in the celebration.
“Your organization has consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to the provision of quality child care,” Minister Wiseman told the large group of parents, guests and children. “Your centre’s staff work closely with Regional Child Care Services to continue the development and enhancement of the program offered to children. This is an indication of a centre that is committed to quality.”
The centre was originally created by the Memorial University Students’ Union, but it has recently reverted to the university and is now managed as a separately incorporated entity. It operates with a volunteer board and is chaired by Lisa Hollett, Memorial’s director of the Department of Human Resources, who emceed the reception.
Kent Decker, Memorial’s vice-president (finance and administration), represented the university at the event. “The centre has become an important dimension of our campus and we have committed to ensuring that the success it has enjoyed will continue,” said Mr. Decker. “It’s fitting that the university is the site of a childcare centre that not only supports student parents who are pursuing a post-secondary education, but also serves other members of the campus community the faculty and staff with childcare needs, but also with a research and learning dimension that ultimately helps other early childcare educators in the pursuit of best practices.”
Don Duffie is a parent, a student and a volunteer member of the centre’s Board of Directors. Mr. Duffie who is doing his MBA as a part-time student notes that the centre is a close knit community and the board is very hands on and works extremely well with the staff.
“We work well with the staff to make decisions on policy and on some day to day issues,” Mr. Duffie said. “My involvement with the centre over the last three years has shown me that the ECEs truly care about the children and are sincerely interested in maintaining the high level childcare that has come to be expected from the centre. It’s not only a beautiful location, but a great place for our kids.”