The school formerly known as Lake Kathlyn Elementary is filled with the sounds of children again.
Bulkley Valley Bright Beginnings Childcare has taken up residence in the school between Smithers and the airport.
Michelle Storey explains the space they were using at Ranger Park can’t handle the growing demand for daycare and preschool, even with their space on Broadway Avenue where eight babies learn and play.
“We have people on our waiting list now for 2020. We have people calling constantly that are pregnant,” said Storey.
The new space should help, and Bright Beginnings is up to 11 staff members now.
Storey said Bulkley Valley School District 54 (SD54) has been helpful in getting her program running. Right now it has 24 kids aged six to 12 in its summer camp, an experience that includes changing themes like rodeo and water week.
“For all the programs we’ve got an almost brand new facility in the back, like a park. And they’ve got their older equipment, plus we’ve got the soccer field and basketball court. It just goes on and on, it’s great,” she said.
“And the school board actually left us a lot of their supplies as well, which is super nice.”
Bright Beginnings set up shop before the news last week of a new provincial child care construction fund to provide 22,000 spaces over the next three years.
Children and Family Development Minister Katrine Conroy announced Friday that the revamped capital fund is taking applications from licensed child care centres that participate in the NDP government’s new operating subsidy program.
Public sector partnerships with non-profit providers such as local governments, school districts, community centres, Indigenous organizations and child development centres are eligible for up to $1 million to create new spaces. School boards on their own can qualify for up to $500,000. The fund covers up to 100 per cent of the capital cost, an increase from 90 per cent under the previous program.
For-profit daycare operators continue to be eligible for 75 per cent funding up to a maximum of $250,000.
Conroy said a new application process will make it easier for providers, with continuous intake rather than fixed annual application dates.
The construction program is funded with $221 million over three years, included in the February budget.
The capital program follows a new child care subsidy program for licensed facilities that takes effect Sept. 1. It provides up to $1,250 per month, per child to daycares so they can lower fees for parents.
–With files from Tom Fletcher.