The former Cumberland United Church is where Weird Church and Boys & Girls Clubs are looking to establish a child care program. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Cumberland looks to school district for child care partnership

Council also lends letter of support for Weird Church, Boys & Girls Club proposal

With many new families moving to Cumberland, the community has been taking a look at its child care needs.

At their most recent meeting, council got an update from staff on plans to increase child care spaces in the Comox Valley community.

Part of this child care space plan includes exploring options with School District 71. A resolution passed by council at the Sept. 28 meeting directs staff to work with the school district to set up a facility either on school grounds or on adjacent property owned by the Village.

“You need a lot of partnerships here because this isn’t a service that we, as a village, are providing,” administrator Clayton Postings told council.

Staff have been looking into options, though they were delayed somewhat this year because of COVID-19.

“There’s an economic driver to this, the community services side. There’s also partnerships, there’s a lot of aspects to this,” Postings said.

Even with the pandemic prompting some parents to keep children at home, the demand still exists in Cumberland.

“We know there’s a need for child care spaces in the community,” he added.

Kaelin Chambers, Cumberland’s economic development officer, told council about demand for care and the funding opportunities for the Village, saying the community requires 270 spaces.

“That’s more than one building,” he said.

A notable proposal in the community this past year has been a collaboration between the Weird Church, Pacific Mountain Region of the United Church of Canada and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Vancouver Island to redevelop the old United Church building on Penrith Avenue.

RELATED STORY: Partners want to turn Cumberland church into community ‘Beacon’

At this point, council members expressed support for the general idea but have reservations going into a more active partnership with the private initiative, as the property is not the Village’s and poses access issues.

“As far as I can see, the Village of Cumberland would be helping a private organization receive funds from the government and then lease back the space,” Coun. Gwyn Sproule said, adding she was concerned about the legality of local government taking this step without going through a tendering process.

Postings responded that at the provincial level, the situation has changed over the last year and that the Province is less concerned about programming and having local governments entering into lease arrangements rather than setting up on municipal property, though he did say it would make sense to open up the tendering process if the Village went this route.

Council agreed to provide a letter for support for the Weird Church project to apply separately from any initiative the Village might undertake in the future such as working directly with the school district.

“I’m in support of all these options to flesh out what we can do,” Coun. Sean Sullivan said.

Other parts of council’s resolution included having staff look into incentive policies for developers to include child care spaces as part of proposed new developments; work with local developers on securing a Village-owned or leased space for child care; and identify potential facilities or locations, along with the financial and staffing resources required to develop a site and present to council an application to consider for the Child Care BC New Spaces Fund.

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