Kindergarten requirement forces shut down of after-school care program; Kids’ Club crisis in Cranbrook

Sally MacDonald, Cranbrook Townsman

One of the city’s few after-school programs may be forced to close its doors as Kootenay Orchards enrolment swells.

School District #5’s board of trustees reluctantly voted this week to terminate the lease of the Kids’ Club at Kootenay Orchards to make room for two full-day kindergarten classes in September.

“We have needed to respond to the government’s mandate to provide full-day kindergarten by September 2011 in all schools. That has meant that we have needed to find extra space in our schools. In the case of Kootenay Orchards, that has been a particular challenge because it’s a small school and a growing area. Currently, the extra space that we could use is occupied by Kids’ Club,” said school board trustee Trina Ayling.

“We are providing notice to Kids’ Club that we will be terminating their lease as of June 2011.”

It was not an easy decision for the board to make, and they spent many months consulting with Summit Community Services Society, which operates the Kids’ Club, as well as staff and parents at Kootenay Orchards.

“In the end, the board had to look at how we could best meet the educational needs of our students because that is always our first priority,” said Ayling….

But moving the program is near impossible, said Mike Carey, executive director of Summit Community Services Society. For its health care and community care licenses, the Kids’ Club has specific requirements for space, bathrooms, and fencing around an outdoor play area.

“Unless there is some appropriate space we could consider that is within our modest means, we would be very challenged to consider our current program,” said Carey.

“Essentially, we are closing the Kids’ Club down at Kootenay Orchards.”

The Kids’ Club has operated since 1996. It has places for 24 students and a three-year waiting list.

“This represents a huge disappointment for families that count on this care and don’t necessarily have other options,” said Carey.

“It’s very difficult for families where both parents are working, or a single parent family where the parent is working.”

Parents may be forced to look at child-care arrangements they normally wouldn’t consider, even leaving their child with a caregiver they aren’t completely comfortable with, Carey said.

“I think it’s a very serious loss. It’s wonderful that the Ministry of Education is moving forward with all-day kindergarten, but where do these kids go after school if their parents are working?”

The Kids’ Club classroom at Kootenay Orchards was built for that purpose when the school was constructed. But population growth in the school’s catchment area has seen enrolment swell.

“The school is at its capacity for our students,” said Lento. “There are parents who live in the neighbourhood and there is no room for their children.”….