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Reason to hope for Spring Creek day care parents

Province asked to extend certification exemption for six months

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The closure of infant programs at the Spring Creek campus of the Whistler Children’s Centre may be put off, if the province agrees to waive its own certification requirements on a temporary basis.

Kari Gaudet, executive director of the Whistler Children’s Centre Society, said they had a productive meeting with parents at the day care last Thursday, with roughly 50 parents packing a room at the facility to discuss options.

She also met with West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA Joan McIntyre, who has agreed to help the centre petition the province to allow a six month extension for its current employees. The Spring Creek campus is currently in non-compliance with provincial standards that require teachers working with kids aged three months to 36 months to have a valid Infant Toddler certificate. Few early childcare educators have their IT certification, says Gaudet, because of the costs involved, low wages, and the high burnout rate of the job.

The extension would allow the centre to work with the province to look at ways to speed up the approval process for people with out-of-province Infant Toddler certifications, or speed up the certification process for workers in the industry.

“We’ve also been in contact with Minister (of State for Child Care Linda) Reid’s office as well about fast-tracking applicants through the registry, which is something that could help us with our current shortage,” said Gaudet.

Because of the shortage of workers, the Dandelions/Daisies and Sprouts/Blueberries programs at Spring Creek would have been discontinued after Nov. 28.

In addition to working with the province, the Children’s Centre has also been in discussions with Whistler-Blackcomb. Whistler-Blackcomb has agreed to let the centre recruit new workers at their annual job fair, as well as to help those workers find housing. As well, it’s possible that Whistler-Blackcomb and the Whistler Children’s Centre could share qualified employees, that Whistler-Blackcomb also requires for its own infant and toddler day care programs.

As a result of these actions, Gaudet says the future looks less bleak than it did a week ago.

“I think the families are very optimistic, but we’re all being cautious as well,” she said. “Parents are continuing to make alternative arrangements, because they have to for their own well-being.

“I also have to let the public know how great and how strong a community we do have. In this time of crisis we have families that have offered to take their children out of day care because they don’t require it as an essential service, but are using it for socialization and education. They know other people desperately need this day care and are willing to step aside, which I think is terrific.”

Approximately 26 families would be affected by the closure of Spring Creek’s infant programs, and there are already 96 families on the waitlist at the Nesters Campus of the Whistler Children’s Centre.

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