Nanaimo child care operators expect a drop in enrolment in day programs and waiting lists for after-school programs when full-day kindergarten starts in September.
All kindergarten students will be in school for the whole day this year. Last year about 60 per cent of schools in the Nanaimo district switched to a full-day program, with the remaining students in a half-day program.
Bill Billman, co-owner of Katies Korner Childcare, said enrolment in his programs for 3-5-year-olds is down, but the business has seen an influx in families wanting after-school care.
As of September, Katies Korner is losing seven kids at one 3-5 centre and five from the other, while the after-school program is already full.
“I felt that that was going to happen,” said Billman. “Last year two of the schools we serviced stayed half days. This will be the first year for us.”
Anja Wittwer, owner of Little Bloomers Family Childcare, has lost business because her family daycare licence permits four children under the age of four and three that are four and up.
This year, she has only been able to fill one of the three spots for older children.
Giving those two spots up to children needing only after-school care would mean losing the opportunity to bring in a full-time child, said Wittwer.
Melissa Burke, owner of Kidz Kompany Children’s Centre, which operates a preschool in Departure Bay and before- and after-school care programs at four elementary schools, lost several employees because kindergarten students are no longer there most of the day, so there are fewer full-time jobs.
“The staffing is probably the hardest for me,” she said. “We’ve had to be a little more creative.”
Burke extended the preschool program to 3.5 hours a day five days a week. It was previously two hours a day for three days a week. The move keeps staff employed and helps kids prepare for being away from home all day when they start kindergarten.
“I feel that this year not a lot of the kids were prepared for the full-day [kindergarten program],” said Burke, who is also seeing increased demand for the before- and after-school programs.
“We already didn’t have enough spaces and now we have this influx of kindergarten kids,” she said. “The [parents] I’m talking to on my wait list are starting to get pretty stressed out.”
Meanwhile, Sharon Larkins, owner of Tender Beginnings Child Care, said the full-day kindergarten program makes things simpler for her – she doesn’t have to drop students off and pick them up from a half-day program any more and she’s filled all her spaces with younger children.
Kindergarten teachers unhappy
Some kindergarten teachers are unhappy because Nanaimo school officials will not let them share a class with another teacher.
Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teacher’s Association, said several teachers wanted to continue working part-time and share a full-day program with another teacher.
“Some teachers chose to retire because of this,” he said.
Assistant superintendent Chris Southwick said the district wants one teacher per kindergarten class to provide as much stability as possible for students.
“We feel that with our youngest students, it makes sense to have one teacher rather than several teachers, just for continuity,” she said.