KAMLOOPS - Enrolment is going up at the elementary age and that means more jobs for teachers and better use of district space. It also means daycares within some schools must find a new place to call home.
Space at two schools will be reclaimed before the next school year and the daycares at each of those schools, McGowan Park and South Sahali elementary schools, are now being forced to find alternate locations or shut down.
“We managed to get space at church,” Sahali Montessori Founder Holly Schafer says, adding they have had a few parents pull out of the program with the change of location (from McGowan Park Elementary) and increase in fees.
“It’s not ideal-it’s not a dedicated space, we have to pack up in the evenings, share the space, purchase busses (and) rent has more than doubled.”
School District 73 Secretary-Treasurer Kelvin Stretch says about 12 daycares or preschools, along with two after school programs, are leasing space from the district. Some are located in former school space such as Ralph Bell or George Hilliard but others are located within operational elementary schools.
“Elementary is our growth side of the district,” Stretch notes. “Unfortunately we need the space to accommodate.”
Stretch says they try to work with the daycares to find suitable alternative space but because it needs to be approved by licensing it can complicate things.
“Cariboo Childcare was going to be in a portable and licensing wouldn’t approve it because there are no washrooms on site,” Stretch says, “They would have to go outside to get to them.”
He notes the district has had longterm relationships with lots of the daycare and preschool providers and they always try to work with the daycares when this type of situation arises. Currently they are looking at doing a joint application with the affected programs because the available space is not suitable.
“We haven’t been able to find an appropriate space… so we’re closing June 26 until further notice,” Cariboo Childcare Executive Director Marian Hardy says. “We are applying for funding to purchase portables that could go on school grounds (and meet licensing requirements.) The school district and Cariboo are trying to work together.”
The closure means the loss of 22 school age spots, at least for now. Hardy says they are hoping to reopen in the near future and while the ideal timeline would be about six months she thinks it could be fall 2015 before they could realistically reopen the program.
“It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to locate an alternate site that was suitable,” she says. “We won’t be offering school age at all until we hear back about funding…. We’re hoping to reestablish the same number of spaces for school age (and) we may be able to expand the childcare spaces available but we haven’t finalized that just yet.”
The loss of leasers will not hold much impact for the district, the revenue is ‘not significant’ and they allow the programs to rent the space at a lower cost as more of a ‘service to the community’, but the increase in costs for the programs that may have to find commercial space now could be debilitating.
Schafer notes the location was perfect for the students and convenient for the families and while they are disappointed at losing the in-school space they are thankful they were able to get space at all.
“We had 20 enrolled in the after school program and it is kind of worrisome,” Schafer says. “I understand the district needs the space but it is disappointing, it was such a pleasure to be in the school.”
Hardy agrees the in-school space is ideal, part of the reason why they are looking at portables as a future option.
“The location allowed us to cut back on our carbon footprint and for kids to participate in extra curricular things such as run club or soccer,” Hardy notes, “but it’s beyond everyone’s control when these things happen.”
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