Brenda Irvine of Simply Fun Child Care stands inside her Onyx Place facility that she has been unable to open due to a lack of early childhood educators.                                 Dan Ebenal/News Staff

Brenda Irvine of Simply Fun Child Care stands inside her Onyx Place facility that she has been unable to open due to a lack of early childhood educators. Dan Ebenal/News Staff

Lack of staff preventing Saanich child care from opening doors

Operator of Simply Fun Child Care says she hasn’t seen it this bad in her 42 years of doing business

A new child care centre is ready to open in Saanich, but a lack of teachers is keeping its doors closed.

“For the past two years it’s been hell,” said Brenda Irvine of Simply Fun Child Care Centres. “It has never been this bad. And it causes so much stress, because it’s either that or close.”

Irvine currently operates four centres in Saanich and Victoria, but the lack of an early childhood educator is preventing her from opening a fifth centre on Onyx Place in Saanich.

“It’s been crazy, and I’ve been around for a long time,” said Irvine, who has been in business for 42 years.

Although she obtained the business licence for the Onyx Place facility this week, she is unable to open until she finds a new ECE. She has already forked out $2,100 rent plus utilities for July and August.

“I had a staff who was with me for a year. I gave her top dollar that I could ($21 an hour) and full benefits. It wasn’t enough and she wanted more,” said Irvine, adding the staff member left three weeks ago to start her own child care facility.

She says she has had an ad constantly running on numerous websites, offering $19 to $21 an hour, depending on experience. But it’s been months since she’s had any takers.

“I’m constantly using my time to find teachers. It’s not even so much a teacher, it’s a good one,” she said, adding the going rate has been $18 or $19 an hour for a long time. “Now they’re asking for $25, and financially I would have no profit.”

Irvine currently employs six staff, with one working as office manager and another serving as a floater to cover for any unexpected openings.

The provincial government has promised $136 million to fund training and wages for ECEs over the next three years, outlining a plan it its budget to bring on 2,300 new ECEs by 2021.

But Irvine believes the government is taking the wrong approach, saying providing even $2 an hour towards ECE wages would go a long way to finding a solution.

“They’ve done it backwards. The government is taking care of the families, but you can’t have day care without the teachers.”

Irvine says she does have a lead on a new early childhood educator, who she is bringing in for an interview from Vancouver this weekend.

Despite the difficulties she has encountered, Irvine isn’t ready to give up. She has plans to open a sixth child care centre, next door to her Garnet Road facility, by the end of the year.

editor@saanichnews.com