FREDERICTON (GNB) – A total of 131 early learning and child care facilities in the Fredericton region have benefited from $728,938 under the provincial government’s One-Time Quality Improvement Grant program.

“Ensuring our youngest New Brunswickers have access to the best learning environments is crucial to growing our economy,” said deputy premier Stephen Horsman. “Your government understands the importance of investing in these foundational years to give every child a chance to develop to their full potential.”

Horsman spoke on behalf of Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Brian Kenny.

The grants help facilities improve indoor and outdoor learning environments, including equipment and materials, for children aged five and under. At least 50 per cent of the grant must be used to enhance or create more natural outdoor play spaces for children.

Horsman visited the Preschool Centre in Fredericton today to tour the facility. It received $20,147 to enhance its outdoor play space and create a sensory learning environment for children.

“With funds from the grant, we have been able to design a space that will excite the senses and bring children back to nature,” said Lise Plummer, site administrator at the Preschool Centre. “We created a water feature that resembles a brook where children can use an old-fashioned water pump. We have also replaced most of the pea gravel with cedar mulch, and repurposed fallen trees to create a natural climbing structure. The play spaces are clearly defined with unique entryways, but flow together with a circular bike path that has a cedar bridge. To entice taste and smell, we have added flower and shrubbery beds, and an edible garden.”

The one-time grants will total $4.7 million over two years. In the first year, 506 early learning and child care facilities across New Brunswick have taken advantage of the grant.

The deadline for applying for the one-time quality improvement grant for 2018-19 is Feb. 28, 2019. The grant will be available to all licensed facilities offering services to preschool children aged five and under that have become designated New Brunswick Early Learning Centres.

“This investment will make a real difference for many young families in our region, allowing more children to receive high-quality child care services,” said Fredericton MP Matt DeCourcey. “The development of our early learning and child care systems is one of the best investments that our government can make to strengthen Fredericton’s community and economy.”

DeCourcey commented for federal Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

A full list of Fredericton-region facilities receiving one-time grants is available online.

The One-Time Quality Improvement Grant is part of a federal-provincial, three-year early learning and child care agreement that commits $71 million in investments to improve early learning and child care for preschool-aged children in the province.