Ontario is providing nearly $90 million to expand child care and child and family support programs in schools, as well as creating spaces in schools for community use.
This move comes as a response to recommendations made in Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic Framework and Action Plan, specifically that schools should be used as community hubs, which bring together and integrate a range of needed services in one place to better serve their communities.
Possible locations could be a school, neighbourhood centre or other public space that houses coordinated services such as education, early years support, health care and social services. Since Ontario has nearly 5,000 schools, many of which are at the heart of their community and are accessible, they offer the ideal location for community hubs.
As part of the $90-million investment, the province will provide $20 million to create space for new child care and child and family support programs; $18 million to retrofit existing child care spaces within schools to open up more spaces for children under four years old; $50 million to renovate surplus school space to make it available for use by community partners and the public; and expanded eligibility for school capital funding to include building replacement space for eligible community partners in new schools or additions to existing schools, if the original location is closed.
The province is also making it easier for community partners to create community hubs in schools by expanding the list of public organizations that are able to purchase or lease surplus school property before it is placed on the open market. The expanded list now includes Children`s Mental Health Agencies, First Nations and Metis Organizations, and others.
“Schools deliver one of our most cherished services – publicly funded education – and school buildings are ideally located within our communities to deliver additional public services,” said Liz Sandals, Minister of Education, in a press release. “These investments and regulatory changes are an important part of our vision to unlock the potential of community hubs and make Ontario the best place to work, live and raise a family.”