Big Adventures Day Care in North Kamloops will close at the end of the year after its landlord issued notice it needs the space for another purpose.
Now, families of dozens of kids are scrambling to find child care in a city where there is a shortage of registered licensed child-care spaces.
Owner Dale Schiavon said the child care is a tenant in Mount Paul United Church at 140 Laburnum St. and has been there 25 years, but will close at the end of the year after receiving official notice from Interior Community Services. The non-profit agency owns the building and plans to expand its services into the space occupied by the day care.
Schiavon said the decision to close the day care is a result of an inability to find a new location — one with enough bathrooms, sinks and outdoor space in the Brocklehurst-North Kamloops area. She will retire with the closure, but her daughter, who works at Big Adventures, was planning to succeed her mother.
As a result, one other staff member is choosing to retire and two others are planning to leave the field, including Schiavon’s daughter. Forty children will be without care unless their parents can find another facility.
“It’s stressful for me to watch my families,” Schiavon said. “It was really hard to give them the letter and say, ‘You know what, I know how hard this is going to be.’ And even if we would have known 14 months ago, most waiting lists are three years long. They still wouldn’t have had day care.”
Two parents, who asked to remain anonymous, spoke to KTW about the impacts of losing child care.
One mom said she has been crying since she learned the news. The single parent works early in the morning and said it is difficult to find care for her two kids that starts early enough for her to get to work on time. Economists have said women have been hit hard during the pandemic, labelling the current economic crisis a “she-cession” due to closure of child-care centres, restaurants and shops, largely impacting women.
"I have been crying a lot,” the mom said. “I’m a single mom. I’m a registered nurse and I can’t get to work.”
She said other day cares do not have the two spaces she needs, nor can she find spaces for her children’s ages.
“Big Adventures was an exception to start at 6:45 a.m. No other day cares start [that early]. I have to start my shift after dropping my kids off at 7:30 a.m. in the morning. I can’t find that,” she said.
Another mom said it took her two years to find Big Adventures Day Care, noting wait lists in Kamloops are three-plus years in length. She said Big Adventures is unique in its ability to take both of her kids within a wide age group, as well as pick-up and drop-off services and outdoor space for kids to play. She fears insufficient time to find a new day care.
“It’s not enough time at all,” she said. “To tell you the truth, I think if they gave us a year, it wouldn’t have been enough time to find a new day care with the way the waiting lists are like in Kamloops.”
Interior Community Services CEO Kelly Kelland said the non-profit organization purchased Mount Paul United Church three years ago to open the Mount Paul Community Food Centre, providing meals for those in need and teaching cooking and gardening skills.
Kelland said ICS has been in discussion with the day care about vacating the building for 14 months.
Kelland told KTW the organization plans to expand its services into the space occupied by Big Adventures, keeping with the vision of the organization. Kelland said ICS has gone above and beyond to help transition the day care, including offering to find a new location, physically move the day care utilizing its maintenance staff and reaching out to a child-care consultant for help.
“I don’t know what else to do,” Kelland said.
Schiavon said she has been looking for a new space.
“Licensing requires for the centre to have one sink and one toilet for every every 10 children. When you have 30 children or 40 children — whatever the number — I need four bathrooms. Four toilets and four sinks. There is not one space that we even phoned that could accommodate that,” she said.
Schiavon said renovating is expensive, adding that landlords may not allow it.
“Then it’s finding a space that has a play yard for them, so they can go outside, and is accessible to some sort of outdoor space. I just put in last year, spent a lot of money, putting in new grass and everything. I’ve been here 25 years and our grass was done, so I redid our whole backyard last summer. I didn’t know last summer that we were losing the space.”
Schiavon maintains she first got word of ICS’s plans in February, noting the official notice was not given until June, in a letter. Parents were notified earlier this month. When ICS purchased the church, Schiavon said, she was told the day-care space would remain.
“That made me angry. It made me angry that they said, ‘No, you don’t have to worry.’ It made me angry,” she said.
Schiavon hopes the departure can be extended to the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
“Because of COVID, I know that some of these parents are coming back in September. They haven’t worked. They have enough concerns already,” she said. “Now they’re going to be coming back and have to look for a day care, which just adds more stress on them.”
Kelland said she understands parents are upset, but noted the news shouldn’t be a surprise.
“I’m open to having a discussion about next steps, as far as keeping the Big Adventures Day Care open for business, and I hope that happens,” she said.
The City of Kamloops has been looking into a shortage of registered licensed child-care spaces and has identified the Brocklehurst neighbourhood among the most in need. Coun. Dale Bass said there is a “childcare crisis,” including long wait lists and staffing shortages.
“I was told there is a child-care centre in the city, a new one, that has an empty room because they can’t find a teacher,” Bass said.
Asked if there is anything the city can do, Bass noted a recent study completed by municipal staff. Recommendations from that report, however, require input and buy-in from the provincial and federal governments, she said.