A day care and a pre-school being displaced as School District 73 shuffles students in the wake of the Sept. 5 Parkcrest elementary fire have found a new combined home.
Lil Scholars Preschool, Happy Honeybees Child Care and the Big Little Science Centre must move out of the former Happyvale elementary, at 655 Holt St. in Brocklehurst, to make way for students from the Four Directions Aboriginal alternative program.
The Four Directions students, now at George Hilliard elementary at 985 Holt St., must move to make room for the teachers and 360 students of Parkcrest, who will move into Hilliard on Sept. 16. Students of the Twin Rivers Education Centre alternative school, also at Hilliard, will be moving to John Tod Centre and NorKam senior secondary.
The day care and pre-school will be moving into three rooms located in Kamloops Christian School at 750 Cottonwood Ave. in North Kamloops, which is 2.5 kilometres from Happyvale.
But the owners of the two programs — Jessica Keith of Happy Honeybees and Courtney Greenman of Lil Scholars — must cram a plethora of paperwork, renovations and the move itself into a two-week window in order to move in on Oct. 1 as planned.
Time is of the essence as, Greenman said, SD73 has given them until Oct. 9 at the latest to move out of Happyvale.
The owners are hoping for a seamless transition between locations.
“I want to go be able to go from Happyvale to the Christian school with no downtime for the parents having to worry about where their kids are going to go,” Keith said.
That’s a concern for parent Mackenzi Chenette, whose three-year-old son Liam joined the Lil Scholars pre-school program this month. Chenette, who runs her own business from home, said she wouldn’t be able to work those days if her son didn’t have a place to go.
She said child care is difficult to find in Kamloops, noting she faced a two-year waitlist for Liam and is still searching for a spot for two-year-old daughter Paisley, who is being looked after by a friend in the interim.
To receive licences to operate at the new location, Keith and Greenman must submit a variety of policies and documents, including floor plans, evacuation procedures and fire drill procedures, to Interior Health.
“That probably what’s going to be the most time-consuming,” Keith said, noting that IH has indicated it will try to fast-track the process.
“We have two weeks and usually this takes a couple of months,” she said.
A fire inspection and new business licences from the City of Kamloops are also required.
Keith and Greenman also need to remove some temporary walls to meet requirements for sight lines and they plan to paint the rooms and install new flooring.
The pair has received support through the process — SD73 put them in contact with Kamloops Christian School and children’s parents have offered to help them move.
Moving, however, won’t be an easy feat, Keith said.
“We have acquired a lot of materials and toys and books — everything. It’s going to be a lot to pack up and then we have to unpack and be ready to operate, essentially, over one weekend,” she said.
If needed, Keith said, she will put her materials in storage and phase in the move in order to re-open on time.
Community members are welcome to help with the move or donate supplies, such as area rugs, lamps or paint.
“We’re going to make it work for us and for our families and the kids and we’ll do what we have to in the next couple weeks to get Interior Health-approved,” Keith said “And then we can hopefully make it a seamless transition.”
Lil Scholars Preschool and Happy Honeybees will each lease a room and share the third room as an indoor play space at Kamloops Christian School. While the rent will be similar to what they have been paying at Happyvale, there will be less space.
Greenman said each program had its own offices and storage rooms and shared a kitchen with the Big Little Science Centre at Happyvale.
“We won’t have any of that at our new location,” she said.
It’s not clear if the day cares will ever return to Happyvale as, Greenman noted, the school district informed them enrolment increases may require the district to use the building as a school once Parkcrest is rebuilt.
Lil Scholars pre-school looks after 16 children ages 30 months to five from 7 a.m. to 5 a.m. daily, while Happy Honeybees serves kids ages two to 12 in two separate programs — a three day per week pre-school program for 17 children and an after-school program of about 20 students, the majority of whom attend Parkcrest.
The Big Little Science Centre continues to look for a new home.