Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

An early learning education program in Penticton, B.C., has officially closed down to make room for a larger child-care facility.

Bugaboo University has been offering daycare at the Penticton Community Centre for nearly 10 years, and the last day of Bugaboo was on Friday, Dec. 15.

“Bugaboo University has been an early learning education program for toddlers in the community. So, it’s not actually a preschool nor is it a licensed child-care centre,” said City of Penticton Social Development Specialist Jamie Lloyd-Smith.

“We know that child care is a crisis not just in Penticton but in B.C., so we were finding opportunities to expand our child-care spaces. And we wanted to look at the city-owned assets and facilities that we had, and Bugaboo University was a perfect opportunity to take what we are already doing and expand into formal child-care spaces.”

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Over 100 childcare spots open with more to come

The city has partnered with the YMCA of the Southern Interior for an expansion of space at the Community Centre.

The new child-care facility will add 80 net new child-care spaces in Penticton including 12 spaces for children under three-years-old, 44 spaces for children three-years-old to kindergarten age, and 24 spaces for school-aged children.

“At this point none of the spots are currently spoken for in any way, lots of that will be left to the YMCA. We certainly do expect a high demand we know that there’s a need for child care in the community,” said Lloyd-Smith.

“This is a big step for us in the partnership here and making this happen is what’s been really successful. We certainly know in speaking with families and speaking with the community, there’s a need and this is a good first step for us to work with the YMCA and certainly looking for other future opportunities as well.”

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The Power Street Child Care project is being supported with a $2.2 million grant from the province.

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The project is also a part of the City’s Child Care Action Plan which aims for a total of 722 spaces by 2030. The city is reportedly on track to have met 60 per cent of the targeted spaces by 2024, which includes the introduction of after-school care by School District 67.

“That is in addition to other partnerships like Okanagan College and our partners offering that ECE Training Program. And also working with the province on wage enhancements for ECE staff,” said Lloyd-Smith.

“I think Penticton can feel really proud of the work we’ve done to get here and know that we know more is still needed, and more is going to come but this is a good first step.”

Six hundred new child care spaces being created at schools across Central Okanagan

Penticton mother and child care advocate, Amanda Burnett, believes The Power Street Child Care project is a step in the right direction but more still needs to be done to address the growing need for child-care.

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“I think it’s exciting to see efforts being made in the community to build more official licensed child-care spaces. I think there will be some families who are going to be losing out on the more flexible opportunities, or options that Bugaboo created,” said Burnett.

“I think that this is a step in the right direction, but it’s absolutely not enough to address the years-long waitlists for child care in Penticton.”

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Burnett faced lengthy waitlists while looking for childcare for her kids back in 2019. And although her children have since left the child-care system, she says the waitlists are still just as long if not longer.

“I’ve heard that it’s even worse. The problems not getting any better and unless there is going to be a massive shift in the workforce as well as a massive amount of spaces being built all at the same time,” said Burnett.

“It’s just one foot in front of the other at this point. Small changes, but it’s not going to be overnight, that’s for sure.”

More childcare spaces needed in the South Okanagan

Burnett went on to say that one of the biggest concerns for herself and many other parents is finding staff to operate new child-care facilities, and ensuring that those early childhood educators are properly compensated.

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“It’ll be up to the YMCA to staff it and as far as I know. They operate the Queen’s Park one, they originally had a few staffing issues, but that was sorted out a few years ago,” said Burnett.

“They have a good reputation in the community and could be a good employer. And so, it shouldn’t be an issue, but because it’s a systemic issue, finding enough workers I think that’s where the concern is. It’s not necessarily specifically to this organization.”

Meanwhile, the Power Street YMCA Child Care project is currently in the design stage.

Anyone interested in obtaining registration information or interested in learning more will be able to enter their contact details in mid-2024. The waitlist is expected to open in the fall or winter of 2024.

‘We’re very frustrated with the government;’ aspiring Penticton childcare providers in red tape limbo

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