BATHURST (GNB) – A total of 63 early learning and childcare facilities in the Bathurst and Acadian Peninsula regions have benefited from $304,337 under the provincial government’s One-Time Quality Improvement Grant program.

“Increasing the quality of child care learning environments is one of the best ways to improve educational outcomes,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Brian Kenny. “These investments will lead to improved early learning and child care for preschool-aged children in our province.”

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.

Kenny visited Happy Little Faces Daycare today to tour the facility. It received $7,028 to enhance their indoor learning environment for children.

“We are so happy and excited to have received the One-Time Quality Improvement Grant,” said Lynn Pelletier, owner of Happy Little Faces Daycare. “It has afforded us the opportunity to remove over 80 per cent of the plastic toys and structures from our indoor and outdoor play spaces. We, in turn, added all-wood products to our centre, such as beautiful dramatic play areas, imagination building-block areas, cozy corners, reading centres and two new surfaces in the outdoor play yard. We have found that, with all these changes, the children absolutely thrive in their new natural beautiful spaces and environments. They have so many more opportunities to use their imaginations and sharing skills with all the raw materials we provided for them. Our project we are working on now is a more efficient shaded area for our infant outdoor play space and a more open concept space in the indoor infant area.”

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.

“I am very proud that the federal and provincial governments have committed to a grant program that will contribute to improving early learning and child care for preschool-aged children in the region,” said Acadie-Bathurst MP Serge Cormier. “Providing indoor and outdoor learning environments will allow early childhood educators and child care workers to have access to the tools they need to provide high-quality services and to support families in our region. The funds announced today will help families thrive for many years to come.”

Cormier attended for federal Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

A full list of Bathurst-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.