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Efforts to boost full-day childcare spaces in South Surrey endorsed

Grants would help grow program hours at Kensington Prairie, Elgin Centre
Kensington Prairie Community Centre in South Surrey. (Google Streetview image)

Efforts are underway to boost full-day childcare spaces in Surrey, including nearly doubling those at the Kensington Prairie Community Centre.

Surrey council earlier this month endorsed a recommendation from the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture to apply for a Child Care BC New Spaces Fund grant that would enable them to grow the number of full-day spaces at the site to 108, from the current 58.

Alexandra Neighbourhood House (ANH) has been operating a childcare service at the 16824 32 Ave. community centre – previously home to Kensington Prairie Elementary – since 2010.

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According to a report presented to council on Nov. 8, the program is one of the province’s ‘Universal Child Care Prototype’ sites that uses a $10-per-day fee, meaning no family pays more than $200 per month for full-day childcare.

The city report notes a “significant shortage” of licensed childcare spaces across B.C., and that the Child Care BC New Spaces Fund was established by the Ministry of Children and Family Development to help local governments create new spaces within existing sites or in facilities under long-term user agreements with their respective cities.

Priority projects for the fund are those that build spaces to “serve infants and toddlers, offer care outside of regular business hours, are operated by a public body or non-profit organization, and benefit under-served populations, including children requiring extra supports, lower income families, single family parents, minority language familiephos and recent immigrant and refugee families.”

In addition to the program operated by Alexandra Neighbourhood House, the city delivers eight licensed preschool programs at Kensington Prairie that range from 2.5 to five hours per day. Converting them to full-day spots “would offer more than 1,500 hours of care per year, maximizing the usage at this site,” the report explains. Part-time options would remain available at Redwood Park Nature Preschool and South Surrey Recreation and Arts Centre, it adds.

To meet eligibility for the grant, the city and ANH have agreed to a new 10-year operating agreement, at a $1/year rate.

A partnering agreement authorizing city assistance for ANH – including a nominal $1/year rate for use of the adjacent outdoor activity area for the duration of the 10-year term – was also endorsed, and public notice of that intention is to be provided.

The estimated value of the city’s contribution is $3,185,000 over the 10 years, according to the report, which carried without discussion.

Council also endorsed grant applications totalling $5 million to develop and convert 117 new program spaces at four additional sites – including Elgin Centre in South Surrey – and authorize staff to initiate a process to identify potential proponents to operate full-time licensed programs, subject to confirmed funding from the province.

According to a staff report regarding those applications, the city has a gap of more than 20,000 new spaces to meet the Canadian national average of 27.2 spaces per 100 children.

At Elgin Centre (3530 144 St.), a transition to 20 full-day childcare spaces from the current 16-space extended-hour preschool program would be scheduled for next fall, and would include upgrades to the interior to improve storage and allow napping space.

According to information online, successful grant applicants are to be notified in March.
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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