April Ringma and her children Ian, 9, and Raylyn, 6, are among families who are facing a lack of before- and after-school care program vacancies at schools the children will attend after Rutherford Elementary School closes in June. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Before- and after-school care filled up in north Nanaimo

Randerson Ridge, McGirr, Frank J. Ney schools have wait-lists for on-site care

Rutherford parents face full before- and after-school programs and wait-lists as students prepare to move to new schools this September.

“We’re basically getting the short end of the stick because we’re going to the bottom of the list and while we’re hoping that [the school board is] going to help us find alternatives, they’ve basically told us that ultimately child care is not their responsibility,” said parent April Ringma, whose children are on a waiting list.

Rutherford school will close in June with students heading to Frank J. Ney, McGirr or Randerson Ridge schools, but while student populations are poised to grow, on-site care programs are not.

Kidz Kompany at Randerson has a two- to three-year wait-list with more than 100 children. Owner Melissa Burke said spaces don’t become available often with siblings in kindergarten taking open spots, and she isn’t interested in expanding at this time due to staffing and space constraints at Randerson.

McGirr and Frank J. Ney, run by North Cedar Before and After School Care Program Corp., have wait-lists of 20-24 children for September. Debbie Lannon, owner of NCBASP Corp., said she’s tried to expand at Frank J. Ney, but has been told by the school board there isn’t the space. She’s seeking an alternative, but it means children would have to be transported.

The issue of before- and after-school care is recognized as a need by Nanaimo school district; however, assistant superintendent Tim Davie said it’s the service providers that provide support for families, not the district.

The district is also not aware of expressions of interest or application for additional space in schools from outside daycare providers.

“If any were to come forward then we would explore with them the possibility of options for accessing additional space in our schools if it were available,” said Davie. “I don’t know if there is space or not, but certainly we wouldn’t be closing the door on those conversations.”

Rutherford parent advisory council president Kathy Schneider says a lot of parents are on wait-lists and there are many who have childcare now who face not having it, which is “really difficult” for them. The district cansay it’s a private issue, but she said she thinks there should be some working together with families to address before- and after-school care, adding the reality is most parents feel better about on-site care because it’s familiar and there’s safety.

Greg Keller, a parent whose sons are on a wait-list, said there’s no room, and no room to expand before-and-after school care at Frank J. Ney, “so we’re really at a disadvantage because they didn’t make provision for that when they’re sending additional kids there.”

According to Ringma, who’s also a Rutherford PAC member, before- and after-school care is a pretty big issue and constantly brought up at their meetings and social media page. One concern from parents is there are kids who are old enough to stay home, but are no longer within a reasonable walking distance so the demand for care will increase.

Her children’s catchment school is Frank J. Ney, 3.7 kilometres away from their home, and she said they are not going to walk down Hammond Bay, which is “like a highway.” She also said the benefits of on-site care are that her children are surrounded by kids they know and go to school with, they can build relationships with different grades and don’t have to be transported.

“I’ve had them on the wait-list now at Frank Ney since I heard about the school closing but we’re still on the wait-list,” said Ringma, who’ll speak with her employer about an alternative work situation if she can’t get in, but points out a lot of parents don’t have that option.

“I just would like to see the district help find some solutions because they are the ones that put us in this position.”


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