Childcare expansion: Willows School field would be divided

Gym would become shared space for school programs and childcare operations

Parents, neighbours and community members were given their first opportunity to see what the proposed childcare facilities at Willows School will look like.

The project, as proposed now, is pegged to cost $818,750.

It would see two new portables built on the Willows school field – the side currently designated for younger students – and a portion of that field would fenced off for the daycare. As proposed, eight spaces would be made available for children under 3. Twenty group childcare spaces would open for under school age children and 50 after-school spaces. An additional 25 before and after school spots would open up in the gym. Part of the funding would go towards installing dividers in the gym so that the school could still host its’ own programming.

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Not all of those services will be offered concurrently. The initial proposed childcare hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Parents in attendance noted those hours could be hard to work into schedules for families with two full-time earners.

Although built on school property, the daycare would not be managed by SD61. A licensee would be chosen to run the day-to-day daycare operations. The licensee would be responsible for maintenance and upkeep, however they would have the option to bring in SD61 staff to conduct any repairs.

Marni Vistisen-Harwood, SD 61 Facilities Project Manager, gave the brief presentation Jan. 24 and fielded most of the questions. Director of Facilities Chuck Morris was also in attendance taking notes and responding to any queries which Vistisen-Harwood was unsure of. They assured the community that this is just an initial proposal, and is not set in stone.

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Multiple community members in attendance raised concerns over the amount of space the proposed daycare would take up at Willows. There were further concerns about the nature of the buildings being added. Questions were raised about why the district would not build a larger permanent structure, perhaps with multiple stories to accommodate more children while taking up less space. Vistien-Harwood noted that the portables are designed to last 50 years.

Other areas of concern were traffic, parking, and the feasibility of dividing the gym after school. Although everyone in attendance agreed more childcare spaces are needed, some did question whether Willows school is the best spot.

SD61 staff said they would note the concerns, and potentially make adjustments. Community members requested that a summarizing of what staff learned be provided to the PAC, rather than just any changes they decide to make. They also requested an email address be made available for parents who couldn’t attend the meeting to send concerns.



jesse.laufer@oakbaynews.com

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