As families grapple with a shortage of childcare in Burnaby, the Board of Education has approved a report that proposes using district land to be a greater part of the solution.
Burnaby Board of Education Chair Gary Wong says that while childcare is not part of our education mandate, we have a legacy of being a partner in the community to build upon:
As a District, we recognize the importance of childcare to the community and have been a leader for more than 35 years in enabling space in our schools or on our properties.”
We already have childcare in each of our four educational zones in the District. Currently we have nearly 1000 childcare spaces, across 25 sites, with 10 different providers – many of which have significant waitlists.
The Project Definition Report: Before and After School Childcare proposes adding 773 spaces – a combination of before and after school care and pre-school aged childcare spaces. That recommendation and others in the report were formulated after extensive consultation with parent groups, childcare providers, and other stakeholders.
The consultation was critical to helping staff further understand the community’s needs and recommend the best way forward. Additional elements also informed the thoughtful criteria the District used when considering recommendations for expansion, such as existing and projected student enrolment.
Not all of our school sites can accommodate additional childcare, and therefore the report proposes using a “hub approach” where multiple schools feed into the nearby childcare centre, instead of just the school fortunate enough to have the facility. In our plan all 41 elementary schools would have either access to a hub or a centre on their property. As with existing centres on district land, service providers would be responsible for operating and managing the proposed facilities.
Wong says the District recognizes childcare is a large societal issue that will take multiple partners working together on solutions:
This is our contribution to childcare, not the solution to it in Burnaby. It’s a big challenge throughout the country, and we want to do our part in our community.”
In relation to additional before and after school care spaces, the Project Definition Report proposes working with the Ministry of Children and Families. We are already partnering with the City of Burnaby, which is taking a lead in our community on spaces for children who are not yet school-aged. A number of possible joint opportunities with the City and Province are identified in the Project Definition Report.
The mandate of the District is education and therefore the plan involves a full cost recovery mode. The report will now go to the City of Burnaby and Government of BC for their review, as they determine what they will fund.