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New daycare mostly empty

Operators of a new daycare that recently opened in St. Albert are puzzled by what they feel is a slow response from local parents.

Operators of a new daycare that recently opened in St. Albert are puzzled by what they feel is a slow response from local parents.

The Citadel YMCA Child Care centre, which opened June 1 near the Sturgeon hospital, has spots for 48 children but has so far attracted only 17, many of whom are part-time.

“I’ve heard that there are huge wait lists for child care in St. Albert yet here we are sitting empty,” said senior director RenĂ©e Pidhirney.

The centre is located in a brand new building at Citadel Mews West. Christenson Developments invited the YMCA to open the centre in the commercial area of the adult living complex, an arrangement the two parties are duplicating in Sherwood Park. The space has been designed specifically for child care, Pidhirney said.

Lack of daycare spaces has been an issue for years in the Capital region and throughout Alberta, especially when the economy was booming. The situation prompted the province to roll out incentives aimed at creating new spaces and attracting staff.

There is still plenty of demand for daycare spaces in St. Albert, said Michelle Radey, executive director of St. Albert Daycare, where the wait list has more than 200 names and all the September spaces are full.

“I think there’s certainly a need in the community for [the new facility.] I feel bad when I have to tell parents that we have a wait list and that it’s that long,” Radey said.

The Edmonton YMCA opened its first child care centre in 1981 and now has 26 in the region, Pidhirney said. Its facilities in north Edmonton have three-year wait lists so the organization was confident that there would be high demand in St. Albert.

Pidhirney wonders if the slow response is partly related to the fact that the YMCA doesn’t have a presence in St. Albert.

“I’m pretty sure most people are familiar with YMCA,” she said.

“We’re just not seeing the amount of traffic we would have anticipated. I’m hoping it’s just word of mouth and it hasn’t made it to general consensus that we’re open.”

She’s placed one ad in the Gazette but doesn’t have any signs posted yet. While conveniently located, the centre is hidden from St. Albert Trail by a commercial complex that contains an HSBC branch and the Sturgeon Pet Hospital, she noted.

Curtis Stewart, owner of Little Einsteins Childcare, thinks the YMCA is doing well with 17 children in nine days since daycares don’t generally see an influx of children at this time of year.

In January, Stewart opened a new Grandin mall facility that now has 100 children and room for 10 more.

“The Y has got a really good reputation and it’s kind of surprising that they’re not full,” Stewart said. “I’m sure by the fall they’ll be full in there. It’s just the time of year, that’s all.”

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