New child-care centre building pitched for Pearkes Rec Centre

A community organization in Saanich hopes to build a 49-space child-care centre behind the Pearkes Recreation Centre within the next year.

“Right now, we’re waiting for Saanich to finalize the report for final approvals,” said Colleen Hobson, executive director of Saanich Neighbourhood Place.

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“We started the process five years ago when we realized there was such a shortage of childcare, especially for infants and toddlers.”

Hobson said the non-profit organization, which operates a part-time pre-school at the recreation centre, has secured close to $2 million for the project.

The new centre will be about 7,200 square feet with 25 spaces for children between the ages of three and five and 24 for infants and children under three.

“We already have more than 100 people on our interest list,” said Hobson, adding they did not want to start official registration or a wait-list until an opening date was in sight.

The centre will have a multipurpose room, meeting rooms and office space for rent.

Hobson said it will be built on a grassy area behind the rec centre adjacent to Cuthbert Homes park, with outdoor play space for the children. “The classrooms open to natural outdoor space. There will be a big emphasis on being outside.”

The cost of childcare will range from $800 to $1,000 a month, she said.

Hobson said they plan to tackle a critical issue in childcare, a shortage of trained staff, by offering competitive salaries for 10 to 12 people.

“We also hope other neighbourhoods see community-based, non-profit childcare working, [and] they look into doing it, too. We’d love to help be a model,” Hobson said, noting that her organization looked at buying closed child-care centres, homes and leasing before deciding to build.

Hobson noted that to qualify for provincial funding, they needed to create new spaces.

The provincial government committed $20 million to adding 5,000 new childcare spots in its 2017 budget. And the federal government announced $7 billion for affordable childcare, also with a focus on new spaces.

Belinda Macey from Victoria Child Care Resource and Referral said any new licensed childcare facilities are an important resources for the city. “There is always a great demand, especially for quality,” she said. Her organization helps parents connect with licensed and group childcare facilities around Victoria, the Saanich Peninsula and the Gulf Islands. They have a sister organization on the West Shore.

“Finding spaces for infants is especially difficult,” said Macey. Of the 590 referral requests from parents from January to March, more than two-thirds were for infant spaces. Infant spaces require more staff, with one caregiver for every four children.

“Who is going staff these spaces is another issue,” she said. “We need more graduates from early childhood education programs.”

Macey brought up another issue facing childcare in the city: With smaller class size regulations schools are now reclaiming rooms that were rented to before- and after-school care programs.

“This has thrown asunder some after-school programs that will now need space. Many parents are worried because they have to work and need care,” she said.

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