School officials in Nakusp are moving ahead with plans to establish a new child care centre at the elementary school.
They say the plan, which would see up to 24 spaces for children 0-5 years, and 30 spaces for before-and-after school programs, would ensure child care is available year-round in Nakusp, including summer and school holidays.
“It’s a bold project, there’s no question about it,” says SD10 supderintendent Terry Taylor.
Taylor made a presentation to the school board last week, and received the go-ahead to apply for the funding for the project.
“There are a number of reasons the board would support such a project,” says Taylor. “No. 1, it’s good for kids and the community. Our job is to be responsive to our community.
“It also aligns with our strategic plan — connections with community, partnerships, and enhancing teaching and learning. Having an early learning childhood centre connected with our K-7 school, strengthens learning altogether, enhances those early-learning transitions between child care and kindergarten, which research has shown actually increases kids’ achievement and success later in life.”
Finally, Taylor says the child care centre is also a way of enhancing the stability of enrollment in the school district.
“What we have heard from many, many families is that people have moved away because they can’t get child care,” she says. “That’s full-time, 12-months-a-year child care. And there is no infants’ and toddlers’ child care, except for a couple of private care-givers. Working parents are carting kids around, sometimes to three or four places in a day. That’s not sustainable for the economy or community.
“So it’s in the interest of the school district to have families and children here, certainly for the community. It thrives when you have young people and families and communities.”
The school board’s plan is getting support from the Columbia Basin Trust, which is assisting the district by providing a consultant to help with the application process and to conduct a needs survey for the community.
It’s also seeking support from the RDCK and Village of Nakusp for the project. The application is due at the province by May 11.
Final cost not settled
The board plans to begin the study phase of the project, determining need, consulting with parents, staff and the public, seeking letters of support, hiring an architect for design work, and incorporating the project into the district’s capital budget plan. That proposal will then go to the province for funding.
Taylor can’t say what the final cost is for the project. A lot depends on the architectural designs for the new building. The government, however, has set a cap of $3 million, or about $40,000 per child care space, for any one project.
“We’re thinking it’s around $2 million, but it’s hard to know, because we have a number of moving pieces with this project,” she says, including the need to demolish some old portables to make way for the building, creating parking space and play spaces, and other elements.
Taylor says the project will supplement the existing child care centre in town, not compete with it.
“I am meeting with [Stepping Stones officials],” says Taylor, a former board member of that centre. “Currently the program they offer is 30-month to five-year-old childcare, they don’t offer infant-to-toddler. They’re also not open in the summer or on school holidays. They also have limited capacity, so we will meet and talk. Obviously we don’t want in any way to take away from that fantastic service they have provided for decades.”
The school district will partner with a non-profit society to operate the centre, and is seeking support from community organizations who can help with letters of support or financial contributions to the capital project
Taylor cautions there’s no guarantee the school district’s proposal will even be successful. But if everything goes without a hitch, from funding applications to design work to construction, Taylor says construction and site prep could start this fall. The earliest the new daycare could be expected to open is in January 2021.
If that deadline’s not met — and there are still many hurdles to clear — she says another likely opening date would be September 2021, on the first day of the new school year.