Daycare in Central Okanagan announces unexpected closure

Building Blocks Educare has two locations in Kelowna. One will close on Feb. 28 due to economic uncertainty while the other has been sold to another daycare business. Google Maps

Finding daycare can be hard, and that’s at the best of times.

Trying to find a new daycare, in the middle of winter, can be downright tough, if not impossible.

But that’s what some families in the Central Okanagan are facing after a Kelowna, B.C., daycare suddenly announced this week that it will be closing its doors — seven weeks from now.

Building Blocks Educare, in business for 15 years, has two locations, with one campus on Gordon Drive, the other on Sutherland Avenue. The building which houses its Gordon location was sold during the summer of 2021, and the business was told that its long-term lease would not be renewed.

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In a press release, one of Building Blocks’ two owners said they explored many relocation opportunities, but nothing proved viable.

“We realized that losing our building was virtually the same as losing our business and we would be starting all over again,” said co-owner Laura Forbes.

“But we’d be starting all over again in a very different economic climate and a very different industry. Given the uncertainty around universal child care, we can’t confidently plan for the future when we don’t know what the universal childcare model will ultimately look like and how we, as private operators, will fit into it.”

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The Gordon Drive campus will close on Feb. 28, 2023. The Sutherland campus will stay open until March 31, but another daycare provider, Kelowna-based ProducKIDvity, will take over operations on April 1.

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Both Building Blocks and ProducKIDvity say there will be no interruption in care for Sutherland families who choose to remain at the campus.

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“It has truly been the honour of our lives to have worked with all our Building Blocks families and staff to build a childcare program and community we are so incredibly proud of and grateful for,” said Forbes.

“It is heartbreaking to see it come to an end and to know that this decision will be affecting our families and staff so significantly.”

ProducKIDvity CEO Alex Carnio says the company is working to secure space for Building Blocks families who will be without care, as well as many area families seeking childcare spaces.

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One Kelowna resident, who has a four-year-old child at Building Blocks’ Gordon campus and a year-old toddler on a waitlist, called the news surprising.

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“The closure is very unfortunate for our city. The ripple effect for this is huge,” said Megan Woodruff, who calls herself lucky, as her parents will be helping out in the short term.

“We waited over a year to get my daughter in. And I haven’t heard of wait lists getting any shorter. I think that people are going to have to rely on alternatives (for daycare).”

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Woodruff said some of those alternatives have parents asking each other to rotate doing daycare, or finding a nanny share.

“People come from all over the city to go to that centre, because it’s rare that you get a (daycare) spot in your neighbourhood,” said Woodruff, adding she put her children on five different lists but doesn’t expect to get in any time soon.

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Woodruff says she’s lucky she has family in the area and that her job is flexible, and that she’s grateful for both.

“But some people are not (lucky). And I know a lot of parents who are in that situation and it’s just going to be really hard.”

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As an example of that ripple effect, Woodruff says with her mother helping out, her mom’s employer will be directly impacted.

“Employers in the Okanagan are desperate for people,” said Woodruff. “And my mom’s employer is short-staffed, so it’s going to be a blow for them.

“What I’d like people to recognize is that it’s just not losing a daycare centre. It’s people losing their careers, it’s people losing their livelihoods, it’s poor customer service because they’re short-staffed because one person had to leave their job to help care for their daughter’s children or their grandchildren.

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“There’s more to it than just 200 families losing childcare spaces.”

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