Childcare just became a lot more affordable for a lucky group of Nelson families.
The School House Early Care and Learning Centre is one of 53 sites in B.C. included in a plan announced Friday that will provide full-time monthly care for $200 or less per child.
The pilot project will run through March 31, 2020, and inform the provincial government’s plans for affordable universal childcare.
Veronica Maclean, the centre’s founder, said Wednesday that a family with three children at School House has already had their bill cut from approximately $3,000 per month to $540.
“The mom, when I told her, I thought she was going to faint,” said Maclean. “She was just swooning.”
School House has operated next to Lions Park since 2013 and is licensed to care for children from birth to 12 years old. Maclean said the centre applied to be included in the pilot in May, and believes the number of infant and toddler spaces it provides helped it get chosen for the program.
The centre currently serves over 70 families, according to Maclean, who added the funding announcement will also be a boon to the School House. A one-time quality improvement grant will also be made available to the centre next year.
“I think it will help us become a better centre to provide even more in-depth services with an emphasis on quality care and early learning experiences, just because we’ll have access to funding [and] professional development opportunities,” said Maclean.
The pilot is being funded by an investment of $60 million from the provincial and federal governments under the Early Learning and Child Care Bilateral Agreement.
Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall visited the centre Wednesday as part of the funding announcement. She said the pilot project is a similar step toward universal childcare that Quebec took prior to the rollout of its subsidized plan in 1997.
“You can see right now the big smile ear to ear here,” said Mungall. “I know, not just as a new mom but for years as the local MLA and before that when I was on city council, how difficult childcare was for families. It was very difficult to get into childcare spaces and once you finally did, the cost was very prohibitive for a lot families.”
Mungall said the pilot will provide data on the number of care spaces required, demand for care and the types of programming offered by centres.
The School House is currently located in the former Gordon Sargent Elementary School. The building is one of 10 properties School District 8 hopes to se pending provincial approval.
Maclean said she spoke to the district about the building’s future, but could not provide more detail other than to say she expects the centre will stay put.
“I’m confident nothing is going to happen,” she said.