Some relief is coming to address the shortage of child care spaces in Kamloops.
Forty-two licensed child care spaces are being added to the Kamloops Child Development Centre (KCDC) via provincial funding for a construction project in partnership with School District 73.
The KCDC is receiving about $1.2 million from the Childcare BC New Spaces Fund to build a new facility on school district property along Holway Street in North Kamloops, where the child development centre’s operations are centred.
The new facility will enable the non-profit organization to incorporate 12 new spaces for infants and toddlers, 17 new spaces for children ages three to five and 13 new spaces for school-aged children.
The new facility will help shrink KCDC’s two-year wait lists, which are capped at 100 applicants.
“I get at least six calls a day [from people] trying to get children into the centre,” Helen Blair, KCDC director of education, told KTW.
The 42 new spaces mean fewer parents will need to be asked to find new child care as their kids age up to the next group, which KCDC has been having to do because of a lack of room, Blair said.
“With the infant/toddlers, as soon as they’re three, if there isn’t enough space in the [ages] three to fives, then they have to leave because we don’t have a space for them, so this is going to create spaces to move people up,” she said.
The new building will house all the school-aged children and the rooms they leave behind in the existing Holway Street child care will be converted to spaces for for children aged three to five. One of the existing ages three to five rooms will be used for more infant/toddler spaces.
Blair said the new facility will have six rooms, be solar heated and situated on the property near the parking lot and playground area.
According to the provincial government, the school district is expecting the project to be finished this summer, but Blair said she’s anticipating a completion date in November.
“It just depends how fast the permits come through,” she said.
The new building will increase the total number of spaces at KCDC to 159 and require the addition of five staff.
"Our district is pleased to be able to continue to partner with the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Kamloops Child Development Centre to provide much-needed daycare and after-school programming in our community,” SD73 superintendent Alison Sidow said in a press release. “The KCDC is a long-serving, well-respected provider of programs and services that ensure our most vulnerable children have continuity of care until they transition to district schools."
Blair said being able to add another 42 spaces is significant, noting a recent survey done by the city that revealed a significant shortfall in available spaces.
According to the Community Childcare Planning Program report, as of last June, when the inventory was completed, the city had 12,000 kids ages 12 and under and 3,300 licensed and registered spaces. In addition, the study found that most neighbourhoods are underserved (22 out of 24) and that there is limited opportunity for flexible, extended and weekend child care.
The KCDC offers a nature-based program, with children spending the majority of their time outside, often taking walks along the local river or around nearby McDonald Park.
The curriculum teaches children about Indigenous cultures, with elders visiting for storytelling and traditional drumming. Children also have the opportunity to learn about science, math, drama, music, arts and culture.