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First child care centres open at Nanaimo-Ladysmith schools as part of provincial initiative

Forest Park and Ladysmith Primary centres first to open, Chase River centre will be next
B.C. Minister of State for Child Care Grace Lore is on hand Friday, June 16, to mark the opening of the new Forest Park Elementary School child care centre, operated by Playtime Childcare Society. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

The first child care spaces at Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools facilities that are part of a new provincial initiative are now open.

At a press conference in Nanaimo on Friday, June 16, the B.C. government and School District 68 stated that sites at Forest Park Elementary School, with over more than 70 spaces, and Ladysmith Primary School, with more than 75 spaces, have opened. Playtime Childcare Society operates the Nanaimo facility and Inquiring Little Minds operates the Ladysmith site.

Pete Sabo, executive director of planning and operations, told the News Bulletin that infant-toddler care, group care, pre-school care and out-of-school care are among the offerings. A centre at Chase River Elementary is anticipated to come online next and work toward a child care centre at Rock City Elementary is underway.

“At Chase River, we’re expecting the final [occupancy] permit within the next few weeks and then after that, the provider has to apply for their child-care permit and that can take upwards of two months to get all their other requirements in place,” Sabo said.

While the district previously estimated the site at Forest Park would be ready by the end of 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic affected those plans. Mark Walsh, district secretary-treasurer, told the News Bulletin there were escalation of costs and Sabo said the district made adjustments in order to begin work.

“Mark challenged the facilities department to deliver the units internally,” said Sabo. “And we did have enough planning time to know it was coming and to staff up, although we essentially created a new construction arm … we have a completely separate department that’s managing construction.”

The government granted the district close to $23 million in 2018 via the Child Care B.C. new spaces fund for 550 spaces and playgrounds and equipment. Grace Lore, B.C.’s minister of state for child care, said it’s “life-changing” for families to be able to access child care on school grounds.

“[It] just make sense,” she said at the press conference. “Families have asked for it. Dropping your kids off at one location, having your children at one place for the whole day. It gives parents a peace of mind.”

Greg Keller, school board chairperson, was grateful to the government for its support.

“Child care is crucial in our communities, and helps parents pursue their careers and educational goals while ensuring that children are cared for and supported during these important years,” he said. “Every child deserves access to quality child care, and with the province’s support, we’re taking a significant step forward in achieving that goal.”

RELATED: SD68 works on child care arrangements at district schools

RELATED: COVID delays mean less child care in Nanaimo-Ladysmith

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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