Courtenay child care facility to get 38 new spaces

The spaces are available due to a $250,000 capital investment from the B.C. government

In the midst of what local workers in the industry have called a critical shortage of facilities, the Comox Valley will soon see an influx of 38 new licensed child care spaces.

On Dec. 4, the provincial government announced it would create 3,800 new licensed child care spaces throughout British Columbia. The spaces will be split across 52 communities at a cost of $33 million.

The funding comes from the province’s Child Care Major Capital Funding Program.

Read More: B.C. to create 3,800 childcare spaces within two years

On a local level, the funding includes a $250,000 capital investment towards the Wee Care Early Childhood Centre. Wee Care is a licensed before- and after-school child care program that operates out of four Comox Valley-based elementary schools: Valley View Elementary, Royston Elementary, Puntledge Park Elementary and École Robb Road.

Wee Care president Carla Carriere said the capital funding will go towards a new portable facility at the Valley View location (which will be built by local company Muchalat Construction), as well as expanding the program’s staff.

She said the 38 new spaces will help address the growing need for licensed child care options in the Comox Valley, where many parents can face long waitlists to get their children into a program.

“Last year we had 76 families sign up for 42 spots — that was only at Valley View,” said Carriere. “Robb Road has 39 spots and it’s always wait-listed. Royston has 21 spots, it’s always wait-listed and Puntledge has 19 spots and it’s always wait-listed as well.”

Read More: Comox Valley suffering from shortage of infant/toddler childcare facilities

Early Childhood Educators of B.C. president Charlene Gray — who is also the senior manager of the Comox Valley Children’s Day Care Society — was pleased to hear about the influx of child care spaces. Alongside those two roles, Gray is also a member of the B.C. government’s Provincial Child Care Council.

But she says the spaces alone are not enough, and that addressing the province’s child care crisis needs to use a “three-pronged” approach.

“There has to be space, it has to be affordable for families, and you have to have professional and qualified early childhood educators to work there,” she said. “If any of those pieces are not there, it’s not going to answer the call.”

Read More: Comox Valley childcare specialist named to provincial advisory council

“The spaces are always really important,” she continued. “If you don’t have the spaces, families can’t go back to work. However, there are many places in the Valley that are struggling to keep the spaces they’ve already got because there’s such a shortage of qualified early childhood educators.”

Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard said the $33 million in funding announced Monday is a “good first step” towards improving B.C.’s childcare situation.

“For years, the childcare crisis in B.C has been getting worse and worse, not better. This is a wonderful first step in doubling the number of childcare spaces in B.C.,” she said.

Details of when Wee Care’s new portable will be ready are still unknown, but Carriere is hopeful it will be ready by the spring.

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