A Coquitlam daycare wants to partner with the city to access provincial funding that could help replace the aging Scout Hall in Blue Mountain Park.
Amy Reid, director of the Step-by-Step Child Development Society, which offers after-school care to Porter Street elementary school students, has been told by the city the building is at the end of its lifespan. While the parks and recreation department has offered the building for at least another year, the city has said it will not put any more money into the structure and may have to close it if any significant or unexpected work is required.
"We really don't want to have to discontinue care," Reid told The Tri-City News.
Instead, she said the city should partner with the society to help access up to $1 million in grants available through the provincial government's $221 million child care BC New Spaces Fund, announced last year. The funds are eligible to local governments and boards of education that team up with non-profit child care providers.
There is a great need for child care spaces in the Tri-Cities, Reid said, pointing to a report from children and family services provider Westcoast Family Centres that stated manyTri-Cities parents would work if they could find appropriate child care.
In a survey of more than 1,000 parents, 35% of respondents said they needed child care while 19% were on waiting lists and 41% said they would change their arrangements if a preferred option became available.
The future of the Scout Hall has been uncertain for a couple of years. During the 2017/’18 Christmas break, workers doing routine maintenance found dry rot that led an engineer to determine the building was structurally unsound. Some last minute repairs were able to keep the building operational but Reid said she worries the boiler could be the next thing to go.
"That's the biggest concern," she said. "It is original to the building."
Despite the uncertainty, the service provided by Step-by-Step is more popular than ever and even has a waiting list.
"We are still full," she said. "When people contact us, we have to let them know we are here until June of 2020, and if anything happens, we are out of luck."
Raul Allueva, Coquitlam's deputy city manager, said while a planning process for upgrading Blue Mountain Park is underway, the Scout Hall is not part of the plans.
Currently, the city is offering the use of the building until summer 2020 but he noted the timeline could be extended depending on the condition of the structure.
"We are working year to year," he said, noting ample notice would be given if the city needs to take back the building. "We don't want to panic the group."
Heather Nowak is one parent who is hoping a permanent solution can be found that would keep after-school care at Blue Mountain Park.
Good child care is difficult to find, she said. Before finding a spot at the Scout Hall, she had to pull her daughter out of a daycare when parents found out the operator was leaving children unattended for long periods of time.
These days, she said, her daughter is happy at the park and does not like to leave when Nowak comes to pick her up.
"She just wants to stay and play," she said. "I know she is happy, she has had a great snack and she is engaged in all these different things."