B.C.’s child-care space challenges have some calling for public schools to be used

Click to play video: 'Schools should host before and after-school daycare say advocates'
Schools should host before and after-school daycare say advocates
WATCH: Public facilities like schools should be used to host before and after-school daycare programs, according to child care advocates. Richard Zussman has the details. – Feb 28, 2024

Child-care advocates say the B.C. government should open publicly-funded facilities, such as schools, for before and after-school care programs.

Vancouver mother Suzanne Kaye told Global News it is difficult for some parents to get before and after-school care. She is fortunate her child can go to a nearby facility, but said some parents have been on a waiting list for a long time.

“The population is growing faster than they can keep up with,” she said, adding that more facilities are needed.

According to Stats Canada 2023 data, nearly 60 per cent of B.C. families said they have difficulty finding child care.

One of the major challenges is the lack of appropriate spaces for those programs and advocates suggest spaces like public schools could be used for hosting programs.

Click to play video: 'CUPE BC childcare campaign'
CUPE BC childcare campaign

The B.C. Teachers Federation supports the idea but said it is not that simple.

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“One, schools are really packed to the brim,” vice-president of the BCTF, Carol Gordon, said.

“And so, depending on where you are, it’s worse. It can be even, really quite significant and quite worse where teachers don’t have proper spaces to provide learning for their own students.

“When you bring in, when you use shared spaces for before- and after-school care, teachers need to know that they’re going to have a place to do their prep for their days.”

Gordon said classrooms are even used for lunchrooms.

She added that public spaces can be some of the best places to provide before and after-school care, which includes when teachers have their own children that need care.

“If we can provide child care to alleviate that stress, provide school-age child care within schools before and after school, that also can increase the hours of some of the staff in the building to provide that child care as well, that benefits both workers, families, teachers and ultimately the kids,” Gordon said.

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B.C. premier announces new childcare savings

However, a solution to the problem remains unclear, even if school gyms or multi-purpose rooms could be used instead.

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“Gyms are being used before and after school,” Gordon said. “Lunchrooms. multi-purpose rooms, there’s clubs that are happening outside of instructional time. So I’m not sure that there’s an ideal space that I can speak to.”

Gordon said conversations should happen with individual schools to find an ideal space.

The new Minister of Child Care, Mitzi Dean, said the province is working with the school districts to improve child care access but she did not have any specifics on how quickly schools could be used for before- and after-school care.

“We have added 10,000 spaces and are working directly with school districts on how care can be provided,” she said.

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