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No new spaces for Whistler as B.C. announces $11 million for daycare

Previous Spring Creek centre closed when numbers shifted


An announcement that the provincial government is doling out more than $11 million for new licensed daycare spots won't affect Whistler.

The two local licensed daycares, the Whistler Children's Centre and Mountain Minis Childcare will maintain their current programs with no increase in spaces. Neither centre applied for the funding.

"We've done that — we tried that," said Whistler Children's Centre Executive Director Kari Gaudet, who explained a previous daycare centre in Spring Creek closed after about seven years due to a lack of enrolment.

"We went ahead in 2000 and 2001 and built because we were seeing what we're seeing now — a huge, steady increase in children being born and the need for child-care spaces," said Gaudet.

"Then there was a huge decline and we couldn't sustain it."

Gaudet said the decline in enrolment was one problem. Another problem was that parents didn't want to drive to Spring Creek, preferring to have central childcare in Whistler Village. And a third problem was that there wasn't enough staff for both operations.

"We couldn't hire enough early childhood educators. For both centres, we'd need about 37 early childhood educators and right now I'm operating with about 15... generally I'm about one-and-a-half staff short." The centre closed in February 2009 after losing money for several months.

For Kate McCormick, owner-operator of Mountain Minis Childcare, program size is crucial, and in order to increase her numbers, she'd have to change her licensing — and undertake a huge renovation.

"I could make my spaces in my senior room bigger, but I can't do anything with my junior room and that's where the issue is in the Sea to Sky corridor," she said. Mountain Minis has eight infant toddlers and up to 16 children in the senior rooms.

"The reason why I keep my numbers low is because I've worked with giant groups of children and I just want a calming environment. It's chaotic and stressful for staff," McCormick said. "It's nicer for children transitioning from the junior room to the senior room as well, because it can be overwhelming."

The $11 million is the third round of capital funding for both non-profit and private child-care organizations, and 45 projects will receive funding to create new spaces. The Squamish Montessori Society, which is currently under construction, will receive $429,873 to create 50 spaces for children aged three to five.