Construction work has progressed quickly on the new childcare centre currently being built as an addition to Winchester Public School. The childcare centre has been much anticipated by local residents for many years. It is being built through provincial funding, and will be operated by a third party agency that has served the area for decades – Happyface Nursery School. The centre will serve children not yet old enough to attend school, which includes infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Children attending Winchester Public School will continue to have before and after school care available through GIAG’s The Learning Centre program.
In North Dundas, Happyface currently operates childcare centres in Chesterville and South Mountain, both within schools in those towns. The agency has had operations in Winchester as well, including in the basement of the Southgate Church, as well as in the Community Care Building. However, new childcare licensing rules have made it very restrictive to operate licensed childcare centres anywhere except school premises. When the childcare centre on the Winchester Public School grounds was first proposed, one major issue that needed to be addressed was parking for parent pick ups and drop offs.
Council was asked to consider closing York Street, which is a public road providing access to the hospital that divides the school property in two. Students are guided between schoolyards by a school staff member acting as a crossing guard during recess times. The infrastructure debates delayed the build, and, ultimately, York Street will remain open but has been converted to a one-way street.
In early 2020, there were talks of the project breaking ground later that year. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic set in, construction activities were restricted, delaying the project once again. Construction activities finally commenced in April of 2021, when the early closure of the schools for the remainder of the school year provided a perfect, student-free environment.
Construction crews completed significant landscaping of the school grounds last summer in anticipation of Happyface’s opening. Routine renovations and repairs were made inside the existing school building as part of the contract as well. Parent pick up and drop off spaces were added to York Street and Louise Street, with the angle parking on Clarence Street converted into a bus lane. Part of the larger schoolyard south of York Street was also paved into a new staff parking lot.
Construction on the childcare centre itself progressed through the summer and fall, and paused through the winter. After resuming earlier this year, progress moved quickly. All windows, and one out of two doors are installed, and the insulation and outer brick layer are complete on all except for one of the sides.
Though an exact date is not certain, the new centre is anticipated to open later this year.