Being a single parent is difficult. Being a single parent and a full time university student is next to impossible. With some help from the University of Calgary Child Care Centre, single parent Kari Gulbrandsen completed her undergraduate degree in psychology and education, but she had to wait two and a half years to get her son into the high-demand centre.
That was in 1993, and more than 10 years later the capacity of the Campus Daycare Centre remains at 80 children, and the wait time is between one and two years.
A new $28.1 million Child Development Centre on the south-west corner of campus will add 82 child care spots to the U of C but may not ease long waiting times.
"I think its wonderful they're expanding," said Guldbrandsen, who is currently working on her masters in education. "The concerns are access and affordability. High quality childcare will continue to be hard to access. There's the affordability issue, even with subsidies, you'll pay a higher price with higher quality."
Gulbrandsen said having her son on campus made her undergraduate life easier because she could see him between classes, pick him up sooner, and be confident he received quality care. These were aspects she was willing to wait for.
"All the high quality ones have long waiting lists," said Gulbrandsen. "These are the non-profit daycares where all revenue goes back into the running of the centre."
Next Steps, Report of the Gender Equity Project Advisor, which was released in June 2005, recomended increasing the total number of childcare spots on campus to 500. According to President's Advisor on Women's Issues Dr. Claudia Emes, the 82 new spots at the Child Care Centre should be just the beginning.
"We want to get to 500 for child care spots," said Emes. "The new building will help us get to that goal but we have a long way to go."
Emes said the Alberta government's commitment to create 7,000 new seats at the U of C means new faculty need to be hired, and more daycare space will attract female professors, and male professors with families.
"With extended child care there will be more faculty able to get into the child care facility before their children reach kindergarten," said Emes. "If we could reserve some positions, especially for faculty it could ease recruiting. It's complicated. If we reserve for one group, we marginalize another."
U of C Vice-President External Relations Roman Cooney said as of now there are no plans to restrict access to the centre. He also admitted that despite the new centre, good-quality daycare will continue to prove difficult to access at the U of C and around Calgary.
"There's an acute shortage of daycare," explained Cooney. "It will ease the list but there will always be a high demand for daycare right across the city."
The $28 million CDC is a partnership project with the Calgary Health Region and is slated for completion in January 2007.
In addition to the daycare, the Calgary Health Region will use the building to house services for children with developmental conditions, which will complement services offered by the new Children's Hospital.
The CDC is also being constructed according to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System. The LEED system creates international standards for "green building" based on sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
"[U of C President Dr. Harvey] Weingarten made a commitment that all new facilities at the university will be as much as possible up to LEED standards," said Cooney.
Though the LEED system increases the initial construction cost of the CDC, the building will actually save money in the long run.
"It should save money because many of the benchmarks that are used to achieve LEED status are based around efficiency," explained Cooney.