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‘We are devastated’: SD61 boots Saanich child-care centre after 32 years

School district hasn’t given child-care operator a reason
Rogers Elementary in Saanich as seen on Friday, Feb. 10. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)

Parents of as many as 63 children attending an out-of-school care centre at Rogers Elementary in Saanich will have to find alternatives after the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) ordered the facility’s operators to vacate its location by the end of the school year.

In a letter sent to affected families Tuesday (Feb. 7), school board chair Nicole Duncan confirmed the district’s decision not to renew the licence to occupy agreement with the Rogers Society past June 30.

“We are devastated,” the Rogers Society said in a statement. “We feel our voice as not-for-profit caregivers is being ignored and our continued desire to serve the community is disregarded.”

Executive director Amber McMillan said the society requested a “collaborative conversation” with SD61, but has yet to receive a clear response.

“Our hope was that we would know far more and have more understanding before having to tell parents,” she told the Saanich News. “There’s very little we can do, and nothing has changed.”

McMillan said the society has been trying to get an explanation for the district’s decision to cancel its licence, adding that the not-for-profit has operated in the building, built by the district for child care in 1991, adjacent to the elementary school for 32 years.

She said the society, sensing a “turning of the tide,” even reached out to SD61 over a year ago as the province introduced funding changes and the former Ministry of Education was changed to the Ministry of Education and Child Care.

Last year, the province added 132 additional child-care providers – representing a total of 6,143 spaces – to its $10 a Day ChildCareBC program.

That includes Lambrick Park Preschool and Childcare in Saanich, which provides 33 spaces.

ALSO READ: Saanich daycare kerfuffle reveals dire state of childcare in Greater Victoria

But at a time when parents across Greater Victoria are struggling to find affordable child-care space, McMillan said it’s hard to understand why the district would shut down the facility without providing any reason.

“I can’t imagine there not being a void. The child-care industry is not a fast-moving industry,” she said. “We’re licensed with the local health authority and the process you have to go through takes time. To close spaces doesn’t mean an operation can immediately spring up in its place — that would require a reevaluation of the building, and then licensing would have to be involved. So you’re definitely talking about a gap, at least, if not a large void.”

And that’s not including all the services provided at the Rogers Elementary centre, added McMillan. The building is also used for Montessori-run care for children in preschool, the Kitten Mitten children’s theatre, clothing swaps and an LGBTQ+ support initiative.

In her letter sent to Rogers Elementary families, Duncan said the district will issue a request for proposals from qualified child-care service providers in the coming weeks while an evaluation committee reviews applications.

“We are committed to having a provider awarded before spring break and child-care services in place for the new school year in September 2023,” she wrote.

Duncan did not respond to the Saanich News’ request for comment.

“We’re just being shut out, it feels like,” said McMillan.

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Austin Westphal

About the Author: Austin Westphal

Austin Westphal is the newest member to join the Saanich News team.
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