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More childcare spaces coming to lower Sunshine Coast

As the province increases its investments for affordable childcare, 171 new spaces are coming to Sechelt and Madeira Park. 
Sechelt and Madeira Park are getting 171 new licenced child-care spaces at local schools thanks to new funding from the province.

Members of the lower Sunshine Coast’s school board and staff at the District of Sechelt are celebrating their successful applications in the latest round of funding for child care spaces. 

At the May 11 Sunshine Coast School District No. 46 (SD46) board meeting, secretary-treasurer Nicholas Weswick said he was "very pleased to be able to announce some new funding." Both of the school district's grant applications were successful – one to equip their West Sechelt facility and one for about $2.6 million for a new Madeira Park childcare facility. 

In April, the ministry announced more than 171 new childcare spaces with childcare providers at three sites in Sechelt and Madeira Park.

“Child care is a fundamental need for so many families across the province, so I’m thrilled that our government is making more spaces available,” Nicholas Simons, MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast, said in an April announcement. “By making a historic push to provide affordable child care, we’re making it possible for parents to join the workforce or train for a new career. An investment in child care is an investment in communities, and I’m excited to welcome these new child care spaces to the Sunshine Coast.”

The creation of childcare spaces in school district facilities is making Sunshine Coast schools a one-stop spot for families. 

In a May 12 press release from SD46, district principal of Learning & Innovation, Kirsten Deasey, touched on the affordability and accessibility of the new spaces. “Children and families benefit when they can access child care with one central drop-off location. We are dedicated to working with our community partners to ensure we have a cohesive strategy for meeting the needs of families across the Sunshine Coast,” she said.  

In Sechelt, the grant will be used for child care in the expanded West Sechelt Elementary School where 12 infant-toddler spaces and 16 spaces for preschool age children have been created and will be run by the YMCA.

The District’s Kinnikinnik Child Care Centre, one block from Kinnikinnick Elementary School, will hold 77 spaces: 12 for infants or toddlers, 25 for 2.5 year-olds to Kindergarten age, and 40 for school-age kids. 

“This is an important step toward meeting the needs of our growing community. Younger families help our community thrive, but many can’t afford to stay on the Sunshine Coast with the lack of reliable child care,” mayor Darnelda Siegers said in a press release. “We are grateful to the Ministry of Education and Child Care for creating this amazing opportunity for Sechelt and the Sunshine Coast.”

In Pender Harbour, there will be a total of 66 new spaces supported by Childcare BC’s New Spaces Fund: 12 for infants/toddlers, 24 for children three to kindergarten, and 30 for school-age children. In a May press release, the school district said after-school care will be provided in Madeira Park Elementary, where a new facility will be built on school grounds for the younger children. Those programs were developed with the shíshálh and the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw Nations. The provider for that location is still to be determined.

“As a School District we are so excited to be able to offer group childcare at the North end of the Sunshine Coast. Pender Harbour has had a great need for childcare and we now can fulfill this essential need. We are pleased to move forward in partnership to offer these quality childcare spaces to the community of Madeira Park,” SD46 board chair Amanda Amaral said in a press release. 

Superintendent Kate Kerr said the school district is pleased to hear the announcement, and it is a testament to SD46 staff and community partners. Beau Sladey of Serendipity Child Care in Pender Harbour said they are thrilled to have more spaces in the community, having provided support in the grant’s application process.

“The child care crisis has been especially difficult for small, rural communities, and we see first-hand the challenges families have been facing,” Sladey said. “This grant announcement is wonderful news.”

Since July 2018, the province has invested $2.7 billion in ChildCareBC and 367 new child care spaces have been added in the Powell River-Sunshine Coast Region — saving local parents $7 million, the ministry’s release said.