Coronation Park day nursery on chopping block

Sarnia’s mayor is asking Lambton County to take a deep breath before closing Coronation Park Day Nursery.

A staff report is recommending county councillors vote to close the Oak Avenue centre by June, a move that would kill 40 jobs and see the building sold.

Mike Bradley said the largest county staff layoff in history would have a “profound impact” on workers, parents and the city.

“If you make the wrong decision and close it there’s no going back,” warned Bradley, who has asked Lambton for public consultations and community feedback before deciding.

The problem is a 10% decline in child-care funding from Ontario and relatively high staffing costs. The move to full-day junior kindergarten has shifted many children into the school system, leaving day cares with more expensive to care for infants and toddlers.

A confidential report prepared for county councillors urges a quick decision so the centre can be shut down by Sept. 1.

Lambton won’t be in a legal position to act once notice is given to begin bargaining with CUPE Local 2926, which represent 38 of the staff. The current agreement expires Dec. 31, the report notes.

Built in 1972, Coronation Park has licensed day care for 94 children to age six, as well as a Best Start Hub, satellite programs and before and after class support for Queen Elizabeth II and St. Benedict school students.

The centre has provided excellent service but operating it costs about twice that of comparable day cares, making its closure “financially responsible,” the internal report states.

If Lambton does close the facility, severance payments and other costs could total $1 million to $1.4 million, administrators estimate.

– George Mathewson