KITCHENER -- Parents and kids are still concerned about the possible closure of five child care centres in Waterloo Region.

More than 40 people pleaded their case at a virtual public meeting on Wednesday night, expression frustration and emotion over the proposal to close the centres run by the region.

Officials said the closure could lead to the creation of more spaces, but advocates said they're concerned it could have the opposite result.

Matteo Resendes was born with hearing loss, but his mother said she's noticed a difference since he started going to Christopher Children's Centre in Cambridge.

"After a month he was saying 12 words and his comprehension levels had increased significantly," Tania Resendes said.

A recommendation from third-party consulting firm KPMG recommended the centre and four others should close to save operating costs for Waterloo Region.

The region said it would work with families to find spaces, and said keeping the centres open isn't the best use of funding.

The five centres have 207 spaces, which is about two per cent of the 14,000 spaces in Waterloo Region. The region argues they shouldn't spend 10 per cent of its child care budget on only two per cent of the spaces. Instead, regional officials said that money could be used to support 350 to 791 spaces operated by community programs.

"KPMG indicated that funding could also be reinvested to address current priorities of the child care system such as sustainability, affordability, quality improvement and equity of access for the community’s most vulnerable children," a statement from the region said in part.

"Regional centres cost more because they pay early childhood educators a decent living wage," said Carolyn Ferns with the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.

Ferns said private operators might not be able to handle the extra demand.

"They're not waiting in the wings," she said. "They're also not looking to expand right now."

Closing down regionally run centres isn't uncommon in Ontario.

"Both Peel Region and Windsor divested their regional centres," said early childhood police expert Kerry McCuaig.

She said the closures were following similar reviews from KPMG.

"What we saw is a loss of infant care, a great loss of care for special needs," McCuaig said.

The region will vote on whether or not to close the centres on Dec. 2.

If they close, officials would develop a comprehensive funding redistribution plan to keep the best interests of early learning partners, partners and vulnerable children top of mind.

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