Ranger Park preschool decision delayed

A decision on whether to keep the Ranger Park Nature Preschool was delayed to the April 12 Smithers council meeting.

Information on the cost of running the Ranger Park Nature Preschool was not collected in time for a decision by council Tuesday on whether to keep it open. The decision was postponed to the April 12 meeting.

A motion on March 21 at a barely attended committee of the whole open to the public called for Town of Smithers staff to determine the cost of running the program if it were fully attended. With many reports and work to be done, staff was unable to do the calculations before the March 29 council meeting.

A presentation by CAO Anne Yanciw showed the Town spent $46,822 more on the preschool than it took in admissions. Enrolment has dropped from 659 in 2011 to 288 in 2015.

The preschool was kept open after a motion to close it in 2014 upset members of the public at how the motion was made behind closed doors at an in camera meeting. Residents came forward in support of the program, but enrolment has continued to decline.

The motion on Tuesday to postpone the vote to April 12 was opposed by councillors Frank Wray and Phil Brienesse, who said council had enough information to close the preschool now. Coun. Shelley Browne was not present.

“The writing’s on the wall for that program, unfortunately,” Brienesse said at the meeting Tuesday.

“I think I was persuaded by the presentations that we heard that … efforts that were directed were not taken to ensure the success of the program. The glitch for me is the timing and maybe waiting for two more weeks really isn’t going to be the be all or end all.

“There was an urgency that extends from people in terms of parents being able to make plans, but perhaps two weeks is OK to get the information and see if there really are things that can be done,” said Coun. Gladys Atrill at the meeting.

Wray said the response since the near-closure in 2014 made clear that new efforts would likely not help increase enrolment.

“I actually think that the absolute best advertising that that program could have had was what happened when we chose to close it in the first place, which I voted along with initially and reconsidered given what I perceived to be interest,” said Wray at council.

“We’ve held three public meetings and there’s been no interest.”