After several battles to keep the doors to the Ontario Early Years Centre (OEYC) in Angus open, it is closing March 31.
Users of the centre were given notice Feb. 27 that the OEYC on Mill Street in Angus is closing for good. The letter also notified parents that the same programming would be offered through outreach programs at other locations in the community.
Losing the central location is a concern for parents who regularly use the programming.
Debbie Skiffington has been bringing her two-and-a-half-year-old twins to the OEYC programs for over a year, since she moved to the area from Georgetown.
Being new to the area, Skiffington said the OEYC helped her access information through resources at the site or be pointed in the right direction for services not available at the location.
"It’s just been great the amount of information I’ve gotten out of that place," Skiffington said.
Skiffington likes the OEYCs routine, from visiting the office to the activities it provides for her children. She said the programming reiterates things for children that they are already learning at home, like washing their hands and not wandering around while eating. The programs are also a reminder for parents, who she said regularly learn helpful tips at the OEYC.
"That location means so much to the people that go there," she said. "It’s hard to put into words the impact it’s going to have on all these people that use it."
As the site is cleared of its resources, why is the lingering question for Skiffington. She said every time she’s at the centre it’s busy, so she doesn’t know how usage could be an issue.
"Maybe it’s just not enough," said Skiffington.
E3 Community Services is responsible for the Angus and Alliston locations of the OEYC, which are satellite locations of the main site in Collingwood.
The OEYC does receive provincial funding, which is given to E3 to distribute between the three locations. Over the past year, Ministry of Child and Youth Services spokesperson Cristina Brandau said E3’s OEYC funding hasn’t changed.
Brandau said the programs previously offered at the Mill Street centre are going to be at community centres, churches and schools in the area.
"We want to create as little disruption as possible for families," said Brandau.
In continuing to offer services to Angus, the Ministry said outreach programs are the most cost-effective option.
It was a year ago that Angus last faced service cutbacks. At that time, OEYC notified the landlord of the building where the OEYC is located that the organization wouldn’t be renewing its lease in June.
MPP Jim Wilson petitioned the closing and the doors stayed open past the June deadline, however hours at the centre were slashed. E3 also said they were reviewing the programming in Angus.
Wilson said at that time it was public pressure that helped keep the level of programming in Angus.
"Keep the pressure up," said Wilson. "Don’t give up because the government made a decision, governments have reversed decisions."
This year, Skiffington said she and other parents started hearing rumours that the doors are closing for good about a month ago, with the real worry starting when items at the site started getting cleared out. Confirmation came when the users received their letter about the centre.
She said now that people are used to the changes in programs and hours last year, the location is actually closing.
"It’s frustrating," she said.
E-mail reporter Maija Hoggett at [email protected]