The B.C. government wants school boards to promote the use of vacant classrooms and property by licensed child-care providers.
Under a proposed amendment to the School Act, boards must establish a policy that encourages daycares on school grounds between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. if the space is not required for K-12 programs, extra-curricular activities or early learning programs.
Education Minister Don McRae said in an interview that many of B.C.’s 1,600 schools already provide some form of before- or after-school care.
The government would like to see the practice spread.
“They might have an extra classroom within the school or might decide they have some extra real estate around the school and they want to put on a portable to offer pre-school or an after-school program,” McRae said. “It’s not saying we must do it, but we want them to consider it.”
The plan has the potential to make lives easier for families and strengthen connections with local schools, McRae said.
“We want to make sure school boards are aware there’s an opportunity here to use an asset that the province has or school districts have, and some of them are doing a very good job already.”
There is some form of pre-school or after-school care in more than 700 schools in the province, McRae said.
The Greater Victoria School District already has 16 schools with daycares and 21 schools with before- or after-school care programs. Six schools have daycares as well as before- or after-school programs.
“The Greater Victoria School District is pleased to state that we have a long-established policy promoting the use of school classrooms to be used by licensed child-care providers,” superintendent John Gaiptman said.
The policy on commercial use of schools and grounds specifically supports non-profit child-care services on district property.
The Saanich School District also has 10 child-care facilities attached to schools or located on school property, superintendent Keven Elder said.
All 10 of the facilities are run by outside organizations that pay rent to the district, “and they’re very, very busy,” he said.
Elder said he doesn’t think the board will have to develop a new policy to align with the School Act amendment.
“I’m sure that what we have in policy is enough to capture the intent of this, and also our practice captures it fully,” he said. “We have facilities in 10 places in the district already.”
The Sooke school district, dealing with a population boom on the West Shore, is more restricted in what it can offer.
“Our issue is space,” said Sooke board chairwoman Wendy Hobbs.
The district runs before- and after-school programs, “but because we’re so tight for rooms, we’re juggling that around, too,” she said.
“I think the policy’s great … for a lot of school districts that have empty classrooms and empty schools. We just don’t have any room right now.”
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