The head of Kaslo’s daycare facility says they’re disappointed not to have received funding from the province for much-needed spaces for children in the community.
“We were extremely disappointed of course,” says Heike Reeg-Smith, the Periwinkle Children’s Centre main educator and manager. “Just the same as everyone who applied, we put so much work into the process, and you never know if you will get it or not.”
Periwinkle had applied for over $370,000 from the New Spaces program to add 15 spaces for children 30 months to five years of age, more than doubling its current capacity. It’s the same program that recently provided $3 million to Nakusp for a new daycare at the local elementary school. That project will see seats for 95 children of all ages.
“The adjudicator pointed out there was a very large number of applications and the process was highly competitive,” says Reeg-Smith. “They had priority areas and that was infant/ toddler and school age, as well as applications from public sector school districts. And we were none of these, so from the very beginning we lost points.”
The daycare’s board is taking a breath to consider its next steps, says Reeg-Smith. They won’t try to apply to the next round of New Spaces funding in November, she says, as the program’s target group is the public sector, as well as on infant/ toddler care and before-and-after-school care.
The board had already determined Periwinkle couldn’t provide space for infants or school-age children, even with the expansion. That would likely take a whole new facility, and another group to run it, says Reeg-Smith.
A report commissioned by Periwinkle earlier this year found the community needed at least 125 spaces to meet growing demand for child care. The failure of the application is a blow to the community on many levels, says Reeg-Smith.
“It just means long wait lists, and people not being able to get the child care they need,” she says. “And of course that trickles down to families being able to work, and from there it goes down to the economy. So it hits Kaslo quite strongly.”
It also makes it harder for the daycare to attract staff – they were hoping a larger centre would mean hiring new child care workers, and building up capacity for the service.
Despite the application’s rejection, Periwinkle does plan to go ahead with some improvements to its 100-year-old building. Reeg-Smith says they will add a new cubby room to the space, using about $53,000 they have socked away from other funding sources. They also plan to expand its outdoor play space with some of that money.
“This would ideally allow us to comfortably offer care to 16 children per day, and since many families in our community request part-time, rather than full-time care, this would allow us to accommodate a considerable increase in the number of families and children we can serve,” she told council in a letter looking for support for the scaled-down improvements.
Reeg-Smith says Periwinkle will work with its architect to come up with the best options for getting work done with the money they have. They hope to have improvements completed by September 2021.