Bettye Hyde: Continuing a community tradition

Betsy Mann

If you have passed by the corner of Osgoode and Blackburn in the past few months, you may have noticed the change in the sign on the iron fence around the playground there. Instead of “Bettye Hyde Cooperative Early Learning Centre” it now reads “Bettye Hyde Early Learning Centre.” The name changed last fall after Bettye Hyde approached Andrew Fleck Children’s Services to propose an amalgamation. Andrew Fleck Children’s Services purchased the building and took the child care centre under its umbrella.

Program Coordinator Janet LeBlanc is reassuring: “It’s just the word ‘cooperative’ that’s gone, not the spirit of cooperation.”

That’s good news to the generations of Sandy Hill families whose children attended Bettye Hyde, starting from its beginnings as a cooperative nursery school 80 years ago. “Over the years, we’ve adapted and stayed current with the times,” LeBlanc explains. When she began as a teacher there 25 years ago, the school was still only offering half-day programs for preschoolers and kindergarteners. “There was always a parent there to supplement the teachers,” she continues. “Every family had a ‘duty day,’ either three hours with the children or doing something at another time to support the program.”

The context of early learning and child care has changed a lot over the years, and Bettye Hyde has continued to respond to those changes. “The shift to full-day kindergarten in 2010 meant we needed to move toward offering full-day child care for younger children,” LeBlanc remembers. “We now take children from age 18 months to when they enter kindergarten.” The original cooperative model encouraged families to build a network with like-minded parents, as well as an attitude of active participation in their children’s education. How to maintain those positive aspects without adding to the time pressures that today’s parents of young children are already feeling?

“Parent involvement is part of Andrew Fleck’s commitment,” says LeBlanc. “We will continue to encourage parents’ participation in our programs.” She gives the example of parents coming to read to the children on Family Literacy Day. “In fact, they are always welcome,” she adds. A Family Day celebration was an occasion for parents will be an occasion for parents to get to know each other along with the children their own little ones play with every day, an important way to build community feeling. “Being part of a larger organization allows us to involve parents but also to now take the pressure off them,” LeBlanc explains. “People can participate as and when they are able instead of it being a requirement. We want to continue to include them without being burdensome.”

LeBlanc is enthusiastic about the opportunities that the association with Andrew Fleck Children’s Services opens up for our neighbourhood child care centre. “I’m excited about their intergenerational programs and their focus on forest and nature/outdoor programming,” she declares. “They really align with what Bettye Hyde has always tried to do in our community.” Let’s hope we can look forward to Bettye Hyde Early Learning Centre moving with the times and celebrating its 100th birthday as a Sandy Hill resource.

While it is no longer officially a co-operative, the family and community spirit of Bettye Hyde Early Learning Centre remains strong.
Photo Betsy Mann