Early childhood care in Chilliwack takes a hit

Childcare was a major campaign issue during the recent provincial campaign. And yet, just days after the election Chilliwack parents of preschool children are facing confusion and uncertainty.

There has to be some irony in the fact that just days after an election where daycare access was a major campaign issue, several parents of preschool children in Chilliwack were facing confusion and uncertainty.

Daycare operators at four facilities located on Chilliwack School District property have been told they’ll have to give up their space to make way for additional classrooms.

And they’re not alone. Daycares in other jurisdictions are facing the same threat as school districts across B.C. comply with a Supreme Court decision that restored classroom size and composition limits that were previously stripped from teacher contracts.

In Chilliwack, the move is expected to be temporary; changes to grade configuration in the 2018-19 school year should make space available again.

But in the meantime the daycare operators have just weeks to find new homes.

“The amount of heartache, stress and financial hardship this is creating is beyond words that could be expressed,” said Anette Boulet, owner of Sardis Montessori Preschool at Watson elementary.

That angst is a far cry from what all three political parties were promising in the provincial election. While the BC Liberals were promising to add 5,000 new child care spaces in this year alone (and another 3,700 in the next three years), the NDP made $10-a-day daycare a main plank of their campaign platform.

The Green Party was even more ambitious, promising a $4.2 billion strategy that would provide free public preschool and daycare in the next four years.

Those commitments follow similar sentiments by the federal government, which has promised to provide $90 million to help B.C. ease its childcare crisis.

Finding an appropriate daycare or preschool is a challenge for far too many parents. It is a critical decision that not only carries stiff financial implications, but also affects the health and happiness of your child.

Mounting evidence is showing the importance of care during this important time in a child’s life. Cognitive abilities develop and social skills take shape. It’s now seen as a vital stepping stone to kindergarten and beyond.

Quality daycare is also important to parents. Uncertainty over that care can create tension in the home and unhappiness at work.

Parents, no doubt, are pleased with the attention this issue has drawn. In the days ahead, as both the NDP and the BC Liberals woo the Greens for support, we’ll see how that commitment translates into action.

But that concern hardly negates the frustration this latest upheaval has created, and the vulnerability it has revealed about childcare in Chilliwack.