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Child-care centre opens on former site of historic South Saanich School

Beacon Community Services will operate the ŚEŚIŚEJ Childcare Centre, with 84 licensed child-care spaces.

A new child-care centre has opened on the site of the former South Saanich School, with 84 licensed child-care spaces.

The ŚEŚIŚEJ Childcare Centre includes 12 spaces for children under 36 months, 48 for children 30 months to school age and 24 for school-age children.

The centre’s name is a SENĆOŦEN word that means “little forest,” and SENĆOŦEN language teaching and Indigenous principles will be part of the curriculum, with participation from W̱SÁNEĆ elders and educators

The historic school, just 25 feet by 50 feet, operated for 40 years before closing in 1913. It was later demolished but the two acres of donated land where it was built remained under the ownership of the Saanich School District.

The land, located at what is now the corner of White and Veyaness roads, was given to the school district in 1873 by William Turgoose.

Discussions on what to do with the site began several years ago, said Saanich School Board chair Tim Dunford, and using the land for child care was by far the top suggestion.

“It’s badly needed in the area, there’s no question.”

Dunford said the new centre is the result of a partnership between the school district and Beacon Community Services, and was built with $3.6 million in provincial funds from the ChildCareBC New Spaces program.

Beacon Community Services will operate the centre, and plans to work with the Queen Alexandra Centre and Victoria Native Friendship Centre to provide services such as counselling, educational programs and support for families with budgeting assistance, nutrition, life skills and more.

Completion was originally scheduled for last September, but was delayed by problems bringing services like electricity, water and sewers to the undeveloped site. All the spaces were spoken for, Beacon Community Services said in October.

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