The staff of the CNC childcare centre are disputing management claims about the financial viability of the facility.
CNC is facing a $1.2 million budget shortfall this year and items like the childcare centre are on the table for elimination. CNC spokesman Randall Heidt said the college's management were upset by the notion, but had no choice but to do the math that included the cutting of that program. A final decision will be made at the April 25 board meeting.
It was said that too few students were putting their kids in the onsite daycare, which is what it was intended for and students actually fund part of the daycare with a levy.
Child care spokesperson Jessica Marshall said that a significant percentage of the children at the centre are kids of staff and students and even more are on the wait list.
Furthermore, the assertion that Early Childhood Education students at CNC did little more than peer through glass to observe the practical childcare setting for their educational purposes was "a sadly minimized description" of that interaction.
As a graduate of CNC's ECE program herself, Marshall said the hands-on learning done in that room is irreplaceable.
"Just looking through the observation glass? That is absolutely false," she said. "The [ECE students] come in, interact with the children sometimes on a daily basis, and also with the families. Not only them, though. Nursing and dental students also have interactions in here. And some ECE contacts between student and the children in here are prerequisites for graduation."
Marshall also said that the childcare centre was designed and licensed for 24 but had already been cut back to 16. They are mandated to close for the summer months but could be open year-round, which would require more staff time but would bring in additional income as well. The rates could also be raised without undue hardship on the client families.
"We are in a childcare crisis in northern BC and a skilled labour shortage," she said. "When you have people coming to our college from other northern communities to get those skills, and they are staying in Prince George instead of going somewhere else for the education, or not getting an education at all, why aren't we supporting those people? You can't get childcare easily in other places around town."
Marshall said she fears the main reason for closing the childcare centre isn't the amount the college would save on running their program, it is the value of the space they occupy. Other programs would swoop in on the vacant real estate, she predicted.
"We already have people from other departments coming around scouting out the space. That's a little disheartening," Marshall said.
Heidt stressed that all cuts at this point are unwelcome cuts even by the board and administration and the only way to a balanced budget is through programs that are important.
It isn't a new concept. Since early in the new year, CNC administrators have been signaling the $1.2 million amount looming. Tuition fees were upped by two per cent, which will bring in an additional $100,000 but the remaining $1.1 million will be the main topic on the April 25 board agenda.
Heidt said no decisions were final until that time, and any suggestions were welcome like the ones being proposed from Marshall and her colleagues at the childcare centre.