It should be a little easier for New Westminster parents to find before-and-after-school child care this fall.
The New Westminster school district is working on plans to open new child-care spaces at four local elementary schools. Tanis Anderson, district vice-principal for early learning, gave an update on the district’s efforts at the school board’s operations committee meeting June 8.
Among the key projects coming up this September is a pilot project for “Seamless Day” child care at Qayqayt Elementary School. The program will have space for 12 kindergarten students.
The Seamless Day model is one being piloted in school districts around B.C. Under the program, child care is integrated directly into the classroom, with early childhood educators who care for children before and after class and who also work alongside the teacher during the day.
Anderson said Qayqayt, which has more than 120 students registered for kindergarten in the fall, is a perfect site to try out the new child-care model.
She admitted the project is somewhat more complex than anticipated, noting the school district must follow all the same steps that someone opening a child-care centre would have to follow – business licensing, fire inspection and the like.
But she said it’s a “beautiful model” of care, particularly for kindergarten students, who will have extra support throughout the day from the ECE workers as well as their classroom teacher. The program will employ two ECE staff – one who starts at 6:30 a.m. and works until midday, and a second who starts at midday and works until 6 p.m.
The 12 spaces in that pilot project are being offered on top of the 20 to 24 spaces already provided at Qayqayt by the Westminster Children’s After School Society (WCASS), which runs child-care centres at district schools.
CONNAUGHT, HOWAY, SPENCER GET SPACES
Elsewhere in the district, Connaught Heights Elementary School could see 17 new child-care spaces in September.
Anderson noted those spaces were made possible with a $3,600 renovation grant from the Ministry of Education that allowed the district to add storage and cabinetry to the StrongStart room so it can also be used for before-and-after-school care. All that remains now is licensing, Anderson said, adding she’s “really hoping” that will happen in time for a September opening.
At F.W. Howay Elementary School, meanwhile, the district is moving ahead with plans for 30 new child-care spaces, on top of the 17 that are already available at the school. The school gym will be used for child care to accommodate those spaces.
A similar plan is in the works at École Herbert Spencer Elementary, Anderson noted, where WCASS is working on an application to open a before-and-after-school care centre using the school gym.
“We know there is a great need,” Anderson said, pointing out the school doesn’t currently have on-site child care.
That plan is awaiting licensing, and Anderson said staffing is also a challenge because it can be hard to find people to work the split morning and evening shift required.
“Fingers crossed, this will all be running for September,” she said.