The Step-by-Step daycare in the Scout Hall at Blue Mountain Park is one broken boiler or leaky roof away from having to permanently close its doors after operating for more than 40 years.
The city of Coquitlam has informed the childcare providers it will not conduct any major repairs on the building, which it said is past its lifespan and may not be part of future plans for the park.
Raul Allueva, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, said he empathizes with the daycare operators but the city cannot afford to spend significant money on a building that will likely have to be torn down in the near future.
“With this building, we have advised [the daycare] that it is on its last legs,” he said during a committee meeting Monday. “We are in no position to guarantee any longevity in there.”
The structure showed its age last year when workers doing routine maintenance over Christmas break discovered dry rot in one corner. The issue was severe enough that parents were told the building may have to be closed permanently but a structural engineer said the damage was not as bad as initially thought and the daycare was able to re-open at the conclusion of the holiday break.
Since then, Megan Stowe, president of the Step-by-Step Child Development Society board, said she has been scrambling to find an alternative space that can accommodate 24 Porter Street elementary students for after-school care. So far, the search has come up empty.
“What I can’t get my head around is that the work we are doing is exceptional,” she said. “We are providing something that is very much needed. I do not understand how there isn’t a strong willingness to come up with a solution.”
She added that while the daycare is ready to go when school is back in session in September, there is concern about the long-term future of the facility.
“We are worried and our parents are worried as well,” she said.
Monday, Stowe went before Coquitlam council asking for support and guidance. She said she has enquired about using a room at Winslow Centre, a School District 43 facility, or the city’s Dogwood Pavilion seniors’ recreation centre but has been told there is no space. She also suggested a portable classroom could be placed next to the Scout Hall at Blue Mountain Park.
Councillors were sympathetic to Stowe’s plight but said the best place for the daycare is at Porter Street elementary — either in an empty classroom after school or in a portable on the site.
But Stowe said she has been unable to get on the School District 43 agenda because after-school care is not part of the district’s mandate and “we don’t fit their board requirements.”
The city said it would facilitate a meeting with the daycare, council and the school board to find a solution but it could be difficult to get everyone in the same room before the August council break (the SD43 board of education doesn’t meet in either July or August).
In the meantime, Stowe said her organization will continue to pressure the city and the district to help them find an alternative.
“We are feeling extremely stuck,” she said during her presentation to council. “We have no alternatives. We have exhausted all other space options that we have.”