City putting money into childcare spaces; $270K set aside for school/city/park board joint initiative

Cheryl Rossi, Vancouver Courier

More childcare spaces will be provided in Vancouver schools with money from the city.

The Vancouver School Board’s planning and facilities committee decided Wednesday to recommend the board sign a funding agreement with the city.

Vision Vancouver trustee Cherie Payne represents the school board on the city’s Joint Childcare Council, which also includes Vision representation from the park board.

“One of the advantages of having the party system in Vancouver is that we’re able to cooperate at all three levels of municipal government and it makes it easier for us to multiply the impact of our efforts,” she said.

Payne says the city set aside $270,000 for the school board to accommodate childcare spaces that would be operated by non-profit organizations with a focus on school-age children. Proposals for renovations to schools could come from the board, the city or non-profit organizations.

The city would provide capital funding to the board when a school is being built, renovated or seismically upgraded. The city would contribute a maximum of $50,000 per project for at least 20 licensed childcare spaces.

The Joint Childcare Council aims to provide at least 500 new licensed childcare spaces, ideally before the next civic election in 2014, or within the next three years, said Payne. Last month, the city reserved its 2012 budget surplus of $5 million for childcare.

“The shortage of childcare spaces in Vancouver is real. Only 19 per cent of kids have access to [licensed] space in city,” she said. “On the West Side, we know that there are as many as 2,400 school-age children who are looking for [licensed] childcare spaces, and as trustees, we get calls from parents all the time, particularly parents of elementary school kids who might have toddlers, as well, who are looking for opportunities to be able to drop both children or all the children off at one location.”

Payne says the Vancouver School Board hosts nearly 50 per cent of the licensed childcare spaces in the city. It provides space on a cost-recovery basis.

Payne forwarded a motion that passed at the school board’s April 29 budget meeting that instructed staff to develop recommendations for a plan, including potential capital and operating funds, for increasing the number of childcare and daycare spaces in elementary schools in 2013-14 and beyond.

Vision Vancouver trustee Rob Wynen noted at the April 29 budget meeting that all of the new schools can host childcare spaces.

School board chair Patti Bacchus said at that meeting that elementary school administrators have told her one of the first questions parents ask is whether schools offer before and after school care. “I’ve been told repeatedly that if we have childcare spaces, we will have the enrolment,” Bacchus said.

Most of the childcare offered at Vancouver schools is before and after school care. Fewer schools offer preschool. The Vancouver school district has six full-day daycare programs.