Parents across the Ladysmith and Nanaimo area stand to benefit from more than 500 new child care spaces coming about from Childcare B.C. New Spaces Fund money.
At a press conference Wednesday, Katrina Chen, B.C. minister of state for child care, said Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district has received 406 of the 536 spaces, which will go toward 10 projects that will create licensed child care spaces on school grounds. More than 70 spaces will be created for centres at Chase River (72), Forest Park (76) and Ladysmith Primary (72).
Rock City Elementary will see 52 spaces, Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh 38, Fairview Elementary 23, Cedar 20, Georgia Avenue and Quarterway 18 each and Bayview 17.
Chen said the new spaces at school district facilities will be beneficial to families, especially when spaces can be created on school district grounds.
The spaces will be for services that include before- and after-school care and for children ranging from infant to kindergarten aged.
“Parents can drop off their older kids at the school and also drop off their younger kids at the child care centre,” Chen said. “Having before- and after-school care to make sure they don’t have to rush to pick up and drop off their kids due to their work hours, that just really brings the peace of mind to our parents and it also really supports our young children to make sure they are familiar with the school environment and the community so they can have a better transition into the K-12 system.”
Charlene McKay, Nanaimo-Ladysmith school board chairperson, said the spaces are greatly needed.
“As a parent of school-aged children, I understand first-hand how difficult it can be to find affordable and reputable child care facilities in your own community,” McKay said during the conference. “This continues to be a topic of conversation throughout the school district for parents. I applaud our government for identifying this major hurdle for our families.”
She said further information as to registration and eligibility is in the works.
“We’re continuing to work on those details as we work through the process of all the technical details included with the build, as well,” said McKay.
In addition to Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools centres, Discover Montessori Society will see creation of 116 spaces for its new farm school slated for Jingle Pot Road.
Nanaimo Innovation Academy Foundation will see 14 new spaces at its existing location on Hecate Street.
The HOPE Centre on North Road on Gabriola Island will see creation of eight spaces.
Projects are anticipated to be completed between September 2020 and October 2021.
Close to $9 million will be provided to Nanaimo and Ladysmith, the Ministry of Children and Family Development told the News Bulletin. Chen said the province would pay for the capital cost of building the child care spaces.
“For public sector applications we can pay for the full amount, 100 per cent of the cost, depending on the application,” said Chen. “We do have operating grants that are available to support child care providers [and] that’s a separate program.”
Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo MLA, said child care space concerns are on the minds of constituents.
“We know how essential it is to have access to quality, licensed child care close to home,” she said. “Especially during the pandemic and in our recovery from the economic and social impacts of the pandemic, we know how especially important child care is to building back B.C. When our children thrive, we all thrive.”