By Emily Gilmar- Columbia Basin Trust
Children and families in the Columbia Basin will soon benefit from 100 new licensed child care spaces and new equipment and improvements in 41 facilities. This is thanks to over $1 million from Columbia Basin Trust’s new Child Care Capital Grants program.
“These new spaces are an essential step forward in helping families around the Basin access child care,” said Johnny Strilaeff, CEO of Columbia Basin Trust. “We’re also helping child care providers add equipment and upgrade their facilities to provide safer and more engaging places that support early learning and healthy child development.”
This is the first intake of the program, which launched in fall 2017 and is offering $1 million per year for three years. Projects are eligible if they create new licensed child care spaces or upgrade quality and safety aspects of their facilities and equipment.
One of the recipients is the Mountain Ridge Early Learning Program. The program is currently operating out of the Windermere Hall, but it will be constructing its own facility in Invermere. This will help ensure sustainability of its current 28 preschool and afternoon care spaces, plus add 41 new spaces.
“Although numerous families have asked us to expand our offerings, we do not have the capacity in our leased space,” said Karyn Rohrick, Owner. “A ground-up build means we can provide a complete child care program to better meet the needs of families in the Columbia Valley. My dream is that our children will have the option of attending Mountain Ridge from infant through to school age and build strong attachments to consistent caregivers.”
ʔaq’amnik Daycare located in the community ʔaq’am will implement its project called “A Starting Place to Dream,” which is based in the ʔaq’am strategic vision known as Ka kniⱡwi·tiyaⱡa – Our Thinking. The 16-seat daycare will renovate its kitchen and play areas to support expanding nutrition and ecological learning activities, add sliding walls to better support children with differing needs, and hire a Ktunaxa artist to design and decorate the entire space, surrounding the children with ʔaq’amnik values, principles, language and traditions.
“Keeping our licensed child care facility open has been a challenge over the last few years, and these improvements will assist us with continuing our long-standing history of providing quality child care spaces within the community,” said Michelle Shortridge, Director of Operations. “This project, which will be implemented over the next few months, involves both our department of Community Health and Wellness and our department of Operations, and highlights the community’s collaborative working approach to implementing its strategic vision.”
The Valemount Children’s Activity Society will be converting administrative space into child care space to accommodate eight more children—an essential move as it’s the only licensed child care provider in the area. The additional space will also enable it to offer new services like after-school programs.
“The centre has a long waiting list, causing parents to wait many months to get their children licensed child care, and in turn forcing some parents to turn down employment opportunities,” said Krista Voth, Manager. “Completing this project will reduce our waitlist, provide our current staff with full-time positions and help us meet increasing demand as the community grows.”
In Castlegar, Silly Monkeys Childcare provides care for children aged six months to 12 years. It will be improving its outdoor play space by adding art, music and water elements and purchasing equipment like scooters and helmets. It will also upgrade its indoor environment with additions like new furniture and cubbies.
“Opportunities to enhance outdoor play are always good investments in the growth and development of the children and can allow us to target a wider range of abilities and interests, especially since we operate with multi-ages,” said Danielle Kozak, Owner. “Age-appropriate furnishings allow children to gain independence and intrinsic pride over daily successes.”
The next grant intake will take place in spring 2018. Learn more at ourtrust.org/childcarecapitalgrants.
This program is one way the Trust is supporting child care in the Basin. Through its $3.6-million Child Care Support Program, announced in fall 2017, the Trust also offers a Program Advisor and the Early Childhood Educators Workforce Development Fund. These help child care providers address business challenges and workforce needs. Learn more at ourtrust.org/childcaresupport.
Early childhood and child development is one of the Trust’s 13 strategic priorities. Over the past five years, the Trust has already helped improve the quality and safety of 300 child care spaces. Learn about all the ways the Trust supports social well-being in the Basin at ourtrust.org/social.