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SD68 working on details of child-care arrangements at schools in Nanaimo and Ladysmith

Forest Park, Chase River and Ladysmith Primary will be first schools with on-site child care
Chase River Elementary School will be one of the first schools in Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district to offer child-care services after a 2020 funding announcement from the B.C. government. (News Bulletin file)

School District 68 is figuring out some of the details as it gets ready to introduce on-site child-care options at schools in Nanaimo and Ladysmith.

Last year, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools issued a request for expression of interest and qualifications, seeking non-profits to operate the facilities. Playtime Childcare Society will service Forest Park Elementary, BGC Central Vancouver Island will provide service to Chase River Elementary and Saltair Childcare Society will offer service to Ladysmith Primary School, as these are anticipated to be the first to open. Forest Park is expected to be running by the end of this school year, the report said.

The B.C. Ministry of Education provided money to build child-care facilities and the district will be responsible for maintenance and upkeep. While the district intends “to charge sufficient dollars to create a reserve that will address ongoing capital or maintenance,” according to the report, Charlene McKay, school board chairperson, penned a letter to the ministry asking that child-care spaces be considered in provincial annual facilities grant funding.

“We are very worried that we will be put in the position of moving K-12 dollars to child care without additional funding,” McKay said in the correspondence.

Walsh said the district is partnering with Snuneymuxw First Nation for a facility at Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh School, which will have a different child-care arrangement from other SD68 facilities. Walsh told the News Bulletin the district is only in the planning stages at this point.

Agreements have not been finalized yet, the district said.

For now, the school district has determined what to charge service providers at new on-site child-care facilities.

At the school district’s March 2 business committee meeting, staff and trustees discussed draft rates, which would see daycare providers pay a monthly licensing fee of $3,670, which includes a base rate of $2,552 as well as money for insurance, utilities and janitorial. Fees for before- and after-school care could be $2,193, including a $1,596 base rate.

Speaking at the meeting, Mark Walsh, district secretary-treasurer, said some proponents expressed concern about rates hampering efforts to start up, and fees will be adjusted for the first 18 months. According to a staff report, rates will be proportionate to enrolment, for example, 60 per cent enrolment would require 60 per cent of the base fee. Providers for facilities that will open first have been consulted, according to Walsh, and while not all believe rates are sustainable, a majority do.

“We want [providers] to be successful, we want them to be long-term … we heard that there’s going to be some hiccups,” said Walsh. “There’s going to be some growing pains while we get enrolment up to snuff and so we have incorporated the idea that, at least for the first little bit of their service, we would recognize enrolment and lower, essentially, the monthly cost to them based off of that.”

The base license fee will “compensate the board fully for all direct and indirect costs incurred in making the spaces available to the provider,” a January staff report said. Factors used to determine proposed fees include examination of what other school districts and local providers charge, according to Walsh.

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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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