Last week the Whistler Children's Centre Society announced that the Spring Creek daycare would not be reopening after closing its doors in late 2008 as a result of a qualified teacher shortage and issues with the size of the classrooms. Now the WCSS is in discussions with the Resort Municipality of Whistler, which owns the property and building, and with donors at the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation on the future of the facility.
At the time of the closure the WCCS suggested that the issues affecting the daycare are province-wide and that it was only a matter of time before other daycares and programs started to close in the corridor.
Sure enough, Sea to Sky Community Services (SSCS) recently announced a round of daycare cuts, including the Little Deers preschool program in Pemberton which will wrap up at the end of August; and the infant-toddler programs at the SSCS Early Learning and Childcare Development Centre at the end of June. The SSCS Bear Cubs program will close at the end of August.
"SSCS has been working diligently over the past few years to ensure the ongoing sustainability of our child-care services," said Suzie Soman, director of early child development services. "These services depend, for the most part, on child-care fees with little additional outside funding. Fees consequently have continuously been on the rise to try to maintain service as delivery costs increase such as wages, pensions and benefits. However, we find ourselves at this time in the difficult situation of no longer being able to sustain the same level of service."
There will be a new service in Pemberton offering up to a full-day program with eight spaces available beginning in September.
As well, parents in the Bear Cubs program have the option to join the expanded full- or half-day Dragonflies pre-school program.
Meanwhile, the Whistler Children's Centre Society is looking at its future without Spring Creek.
The facility had several challenges. For one thing, the smaller classroom spaces meant that class sizes had to be smaller to meet provincial regulations, which in turn would make it impossible for the classes to cover costs. Spring Creek did look at renovating the space to make the classroom sizes similar to their facility at Nesters, and found that the cost would be in the neighbourhood of $1,050,000.
"At the program at Nesters we offer two IT (infant-toddler) programs licensed for 12 students each, and at Spring Creek we were only licensed for eighth because of the square footage," explained Kari Gaudet, director of child care services for the WCSS.
"For the older age groups we are licensed for 25 kids in two groups, while the Spring Creek location was only licensed for 16 and 22 per room. That is not enough cover our costs, even if we were full on most days.