Courtesy Photo

WINCHESTER – Plans for a new daycare centre attached to the Winchester Public School have been approved.

The North Dundas council entered into a site plan agreement with the Upper Canada School Board at the Jan. 19 council meeting, ending a years-long negotiation between the municipality and school board.

The site plans for the day care in the Winchester Public School were reviewed and approved by the Site Plan Control Group on Nov. 27, 2020.

Once the new addition to the school has been completed, the staff of Happy Face Nursery School Child Care Centre will move in.

Cheryl Firlotte the executive director of Happy Face was thrilled at the news.

A childcare centre in Winchester has been a long time coming.

She said, “Happy Face has been trying to get a fulltime centre built in Winchester for about 10 years, but this project has not been on the books for that long.”

Happy Face will be a third-party operator. The school board will build the addition on the school and Happy Face will lease it.

Firlotte said they would be licensing it for 10 infants, 15 toddlers and 24 pre-school children.

Happy Face currently has centres in Chesterville, Morrisburg and Nationview in South Mountain which are all full-time centres, and before and after school programs.

They also have before and after school programs in Berwick and in Avonmore.

“They are already starting construction in Avonmore which will be a full day centre, and now we will have Winchester. Winchester is the one where we have had such a great need in this community for so long that when they put that shovel in the ground there will be fireworks,” said Firlotte.

There have been issues regarding parking for residents around the school with the addition of the daycare centre.

“We are pretty excited that they have all been willing to work with others to come to a solution that feels like it will work for everyone,” said Firlotte.

On Jan. 6, the Upper Canada District School Board submitted its final revised site plans. The revised plans included changes asked for by the municipality, paving the way for the site plan to be finally accepted.

Last March the council had agreed to accept in principle, the plans for the daycare but had several questions they wanted answers to before they felt comfortable giving their approval. The council was concerned about the affect on traffic patterns in the area around the school, but the school board assured them that they would do their best to ensure that good traffic flow was maintained around the school.

The school board stated in their response to the township; “Currently there are only five buses and one van. The location of the childcare drop-off lane (York Street), school drop-off lane (Louise Street) and Bus Lane (Clarence Street) are conducive to improved traffic flows and were the objective/analysis of the Impact Traffic Study.”

The plan calls for the daycare and school to use the same drop-off lanes in a staggered fashion. The school drop off times will be 9:15 a.m. and 3:35 p.m. while the childcare hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

A concern about what parents can do when all of the parking spots are taken up as parents wait for their children to get out of school was answered with these comments from the school board. “The design is that a short-term pickup/drop-off is the intent of the lanes, and parents waiting longer or wanting to enter the school would use the parking lot. The lot is conceptually designed larger than the Traffic Impact Study recommendations to accommodate this and larger school functions.”

The council wanted to know if parents would have access to the gated school parking lot. The school board said it would be looking at different ways to ease traffic flow and that the software used on the gate could be adjusted.

The school board has estimated an average of 30 to 40 children will be dropped off for the childcare facilities.

The UCDSB expects the Ministry of Education to announce funding and construction approval in early 2021 for the new day care.

The school board will be carrying the cost of modifications to York Street and Louise Street. This includes the York Street mid-street crosswalk, signaling, signage, and required street lighting changes. Sidewalk enhancements on Clarence Street would be a township responsibility and are included in the 2021 draft budget to align with construction of the new daycare.