Halifax daycare heading home after stay at King’s

Temporarily housed in a college gym after a fire ruined their facility, children in a local daycare program continue to warm the heart of the King’s athletic director who rented them gym space six months ago.


King’s College Director of Athletics, Neil Hooper, has juggled basketballs and dollhouses since July. Photo: Jake Saltzman

No, the frosh haven’t gotten smaller; those pint-sized tikes running around the King’s quad really are tikes. They’ve been on campus for six months — and they’re leaving in two weeks.

With construction almost complete on the permanent home of Little Ladybug’s Childcare Centre, inside St. Andrew’s United Church on Coburg Road in Halifax, the daycare is set to move out of the King’s gym at the end of the month.

Workers are rebuilding the church’s basement after a fire damaged the property in July. Children — ages 18 months to five years — have shared the college campus with university students five times their age for parts of the last three semesters.

“We know we are members of a larger community (than just King’s),” says Neil Hooper, King’s athletic director. He says the gym has been a little louder than usual, but he enjoys sharing the space.

“We were a little unsure at first, but the experience with them in here and running around has been positive and rewarding. They’ve been fantastic.”

When Tim Flynn, a former basketball coach at King’s heard about the St. Andrew’s fire, he reached out to Hooper.

Flynn’s children used to attend Little Ladybug’s and he and program director Tanya Dalton remain friends.

King’s athletic department was wrapping up renovations to the school’s weight and cardio rooms. Since there weren’t any teams around in the summer, a newly built classroom and the adjacent dance studio were empty during the day.

Hooper wanted tenants. Little Ladybug’s needed space.

After the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development approved the facilities for child care, the two sides reached a deal.

“I was very lucky to have Tim,” Dalton says. “It was unbelievable; within a week of the fire, we were (setting up) at King’s.”

The initial plan was for the daycare to rent gym space through the summer. When that fell through, Dalton set the move-out target for the end of November. A month and a half later, Little Ladybugs is finally cleared to move back to St. Andrew’s.

Everybody’s winning … so who’s really getting paid?

Two p.m. is naptime. The dance studio’s wood floor is spotted with mats. Just as they did before they were forced to relocate to the other end of Coburg, young children wrap themselves with blankets, roll toy trucks along plastic tables and suck their thumbs. During daycare hours, which run from seven in the morning until six in the evening, it is the studio mirrors, yoga mats and punching bag — not toys — that look out of place.

“The rent at King’s is much higher than rent at the church,” says Dalton. “I still pay rent and my insurance covers the difference.” Dalton pays King’s approximately $4,500 a month for the space.

Though Neil Hooper approached the university about setting up the daycare in the dance studio, and the athletics department manages dance studio bookings, Little Ladybug’s pays its fee directly to the university. The athletics department, responsible for putting up the daycare service, isn’t making money.

Dalton says she hopes the difference eventually ends up in the athletics department’s hands. Hooper shares her wish. A university employee, he understands why the money flows over his head.

King’s Facilities Management takes care of cleaning the classroom and dance studio. Sodexo, the company that runs King’s meal hall, provides meals for the children and staff. A former King’s student-athlete is in charge of changing the daycare over to a dance studio each evening and back into a daycare every night.

The money isn’t what’s important to Hooper and Dalton. Neighbours co-exisitng in a time of need pays the fee.