Community Saves Preschool from Closure
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Blackburn Hamlet Preschool Celebrates Grand Re-Opening after Community Lobbies City Hall to Extend Lease
Ottawa, Ontario, October 1, 2015 –
Blackburn Hamlet Preschool is inviting the public to an Open House and Grand Re-Opening Celebration this Sunday, October 4, 2015 from 10 am to 1pm, to mark the start of its 45th school year. This milestone seemed impossible to reach a few short months ago when the Preschool faced imminent closure, but the intervention of community supporters has helped the Preschool get a new lease on life, quite literally.
In May 2015, the Board of Directors of the licensed co-operative had been forced to announce that – due to the termination of its lease – the preschool would be closing. Earlier in the year, the City of Ottawa notified the non-profit organization that the lease on the building would not be renewed, citing the high costs for renewing the near 40 year-old structure as cause. When finding a new location within a matter of months proved impossible, the Board was forced to announce to its families and the community that the preschool would be closing as of June 2015.
The announcement shocked many families and long-time residents of Blackburn Hamlet, Chapel Hill, and surrounding communities. Supporters lobbied the City to extend the lease. The outcry on social media along with numerous phone calls and letters to Mayor Jim Watson and Innes Ward Councillor Jody Mitic had an impact, and the Preschool was able to negotiate a two-year lease extension, allowing it to continue operations and providing time to find a suitable new location.
The terms of the lease extension required the Preschool to make a number of repairs and upgrades to the building, addressing issues identified in the City’s audit. The Preschool successfully completed the renovations and repairs at its own expense over the summer months, with the help of community volunteers who assisted with general labour, painting, cleaning, packing, and unpacking.
The Preschool’s Board of Directors stress that the Grand Re-Opening would not be happening if it had not been for the passionate efforts of community volunteers and the support of Councillor Jody Mitic.
“This organization was originally started by a group of parents in Blackburn Hamlet who saw a need for a quality preschool program in their own community and came together to make that vision a reality,” observed Valancy Reynolds, President of the Board of Directors. “Over the years so many families have benefited from the Preschool, and now a new generation of parents and community members have come together to save what was built and secure its strong future.”
Between changing government policies and programs, and the introduction of full-day kindergarten, nursery schools and child care providers have struggled to adapt their operations to the new legislative and economic landscape. In the past few years a number of non-profit preschools in Ottawa offering part-time educational programming have closed.
Buoyed by the strong community support it has received, Blackburn Hamlet Preschool hopes to rise to the challenge and establish itself in a new location for 2017, so that it can to provide high-quality early learning programming that is integrated in the local community.
In keeping with the spirit of the Preschool, the Grand Re-Opening Celebration on Sunday is truly a community affair. All of the main attractions for the event – including a teddy-bear hospital, face-painting booth, bake table and climb-aboard fire truck – are being provided by members of the community who are current or past families of the Preschool.
Spaces are still available in all programs with registration ongoing. Families interested to learn more about the programs offered are invited to come to the Grand Re-Opening to meet the teachers, tour the school, and see first-hand what the co-operative preschool model has to offer.
About Blackburn Hamlet Preschool
Blackburn Hamlet Preschool is a co-operative non-profit organization established in 1971 that offers part-time, licensed, educational programs for children aged 1.5 to 5 years of age. As a co-operative, the organization is governed by parent members and operates as a partnership between parents and certified teachers, with parents as active partners in the classroom. For more information, visit www.bhps.ca or call 613-824-3251.
VP Operations and current parent
Blackburn Hamlet Preschool Board of Directors
Blackburn Hamlet Preschool Board of Directors