Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
The Stratford campus of Sunshine Montessori School could be forced to hire more staff to bring its operations in line with new child care rules introduced at Queen’s Park last week.
The Child Care Modernization Act would replace the Day Nurseries Act – a piece of legislation that the Liberal government says hasn’t been comprehensively reviewed since 1983 and no longer reflects the reality of child care or the needs of families today. The bill could force several Montessori schools, as well as other private institutions caring for children three and under, to meet new requirements that include staff-child ratios and space specifications.
The changes would impact private schools that have been in operation since before 1993 that have until now been exempt from provincial child care laws. Stratford Montessori was founded in 1986. Schools that do not make the necessary adjustments could face a fine, be deemed illegal or even shut down.
Contacted by the Gazette Monday, Stratford Montessori principal, Catherine Wyman, said it was still too early to speculate exactly how the legislation, if passed, would affect the school, though administrators are bracing for some changes.
“Exactly what they are and how they affect us we can’t say at this time,” she added.
Katherine Poyntz, executive director of the Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators, which oversees 100 Montessori schools in Ontario, said forcing schools to hire more staff would be the “most impactful” of the potential changes under the legislation, and noted there are about 20 Montessori schools without any staff-child ratio for daycare-age kids.
At Stratford Montessori, on Brittania Street, there is what is called the “Casa,” or early childhood, education rooms that mix children ages two and a half to six. These classrooms would be required to meet the staff-child ratio, which Poyntz noted has yet to be determined.
Poyntz said the Day Nurseries Act requires a staff-child ratio of 1:8, and that the ratio for the “Casa” classrooms at Stratford Montessori would be smaller than that, thus requiring more staff if the bill passes.
Poyntz said that to have more staff in the classroom doesn’t necessarily fit with the Montessori education model, which encourages more individualized learning rather than group work.
She is also concerned Montessori schools have been unfairly lumped into the same category under the legislation as “what appear to be highly unregulated” home day cares. Montessori schools have already imposed “fairly good regulations on themselves” based on what they feel is appropriate, she said.
“These are schools that have a lot of accountability to their parents and their communities. Most have been in operation a long time and pride themselves on a high quality learning environment,” she added.