Frustrated Chilliwack father shares how preschool closure will affect his family

Ministry of Education stipulates that student space must come before any partnering space

Wind and Tide Preschool inside Evans elementary, like four other childcare and learning operations inside Chilliwack schools, have been told they need to leave at the end of June. The schools require the space to expand divisions for growing enrolment and smaller class sizes. (Submitted)

A Chilliwack father addressed the school board on Tuesday night, to explain how the decision to move Wind and Tide Preschool out of Evans elementary school will affect his family.

Gary Palaniuk took the chance to air his frustrations with the decision, particularly with the short notice given to the community. His daughter just began attending the preschool, after a lengthy wait list process.

“It’s a highly sought after preschool,” Palaniuk noted. He wasn’t aware of over-capacity issues potentially affecting preschool locations, he added, and hadn’t been made aware of a potential move while on the waiting list. The family had been looking forward to having a seamless entry from their local preschool to their neighbourhood school, with Evans in walking distance to their home.

The district made the choice earlier this month to end the leases of five preschools and daycares operating as businesses within school sites. The affected businesses are Wind and Tide at Evans, Sardis Montessori and the YMCA daycare at Watson elementary, Kids Zone at Cultus Lake elementary, and the Rosedale Childcare Centre at East Chilliwack elementary.

The Ministry of Education stipulates that student space must come before any partnering space, and the district is fully expecting to be over capacity at the majority of schools in the fall. Classes will be smaller in the fall, following the Supreme Court ruling to restore class size and composition to 2002 levels. The wording had been stripped out of teachers’ contracts at that time and the B.C. Teacher’s Federation has been fighting the province since that time to reverse the decision.

The SCC decision came swiftly, prompting school districts to take quick action to accommodate the changes.

While Palaniuk spoke during the public comments portion of the evening, and the board is not required to respond to speakers, board chair Paul McManus acknowledged the difficulty facing families like the Palaniuks.

“I respect the frustrations you face,” McManus told him. “We feel it around the table for sure.”

He encouraged Palaniuk to leave his name and contact info with staff, so they could follow up with him.