Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district is working on ways to implement new child-care services at its schools.
Last July, the B.C. government announced Childcare B.C. New Spaces Fund money for 406 child care spaces at district facilities. Mark Walsh, SD68 secretary-treasurer, said at the March 3 business committee meeting that work to add modular units has begun at Forest Park, Chase River, Rock City and Ladysmith Primary elementary schools, which will see provision of care for children up to five years old, as well as expanded before- and after-school care. Work at Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh School, for care for children up to five years old only, is still in planning stages, Walsh said.
He said once the units have been installed, child-care service will be provided in district spaces for 15 years. The district seeks non-profit groups to provide service and a request for interest and qualifications has closed, according to Walsh.
“We need a service provider. The district at this point has really no ability to provide 0-5 child care for infrastructure, management, human resource, a variety of different challenges,” he said. “With respect to the before- and after-[school], it’s something that we could possibly provide with respect to the new expanded spaces. The difficulty of course is to make it economic for the partners.”
The district announced last fall that it applied for another round of Childcare B.C. New Spaces Fund money, with a business committee staff report listing Cilaire, Georgia Avenue, Pleasant Valley, École Quarterway and Seaview elementary as the locations. Walsh said those applications are still pending, but pointed out that money for other regions has been announced in recent weeks.
The B.C. Ministry of Education is set to assume the child-care portfolio from the ministry of children and families by 2023, according to the report, and Walsh said it is unclear how the ministry will proceed.
“One of the things about the Ministry of Education is they could assign [child care] to school districts or maybe they don’t,” said Walsh. “We don’t know exactly what that looks like at this point. So what we want to do is continue to plan.”
He said CUPE, the education support workers’ union, “has a big interest” in providing child care, particularly before- and after-school care.
“We know there’s a number of labour relations hiccups that would get, theoretically, in the way, that we want to talk through with our local CUPE and I’m sure there’s provincial discussions happening at the same time,” Walsh said.
The secretary-treasurer said the district wants to work with non-profits and monitor the direction of the ministry.
The B.C. government previously stated that the projects in Nanaimo-Ladysmith were estimated to be ready for September, with the exception of Qwam Qwum school which was anticipated to be completed by October.