Panorama Recreation Centre opened up additional spots at Greenglade Community Centre to help accommodate parents affected by the pending closure of the Beacon’s Nature Club after-school program at Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

No Christmas miracle for North Saanich child care program

Beacon’s Nature Club operating out of Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church closes Friday

A North Saanich childcare program operating out of a local church will close its doors for the last time days before Christmas as the search for alternatives continues.

Kerry Readshaw, director of communications for Beacon Community Services, says no viable alternatives to Beacon’s Nature Club have emerged as the after-school care facility closes its doors for the last time Friday afternoon. The program has been operating out of the Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church since September.

“We don’t have a viable opportunity at this point with which we can go forward in January, which is of course regrettable news,” said Readshaw.

Beacon Community Services informed two dozen families last month that the program would close its doors just months after opening as a replacement for an after-school program at Kelset Elementary School. The school had closed that program to reclaim the space to meet growing demand.

RELATED: Search for space continues as North Saanich child care program closes

RELATED: After-school program in North Saanich closes, leaves parents scrambling

Rory Napier, a senior member at the church, confirmed that the church also needed the space.

“We use it all the time,” he said. Napier declined to discuss the specific reasons behind the church’s decision to reclaim the space. Napier also declined to answer questions about whether the church attempted to find alternative arrangements with the service provider.

Sharon Larade’s family was one of the families impacted by the closure. She has since found alternative arrangements for her son, adding that other families have also found alternative arrangements. Both Panorama Recreation at Greenglades Community Centre and Pacific Heart Child Care have opened additional spots.

“But there are still some, who hadn’t found any spots,” she said. Larade estimated that about 10 out of the 24 affected families found alternative arrangements.

Readshaw said available evidence suggests parents are pursuing various alternatives, including less formal arrangements, whether that is with family members, friends or other options.

Larade said she is relieved to have found a spot on such short notice. “But I have that survivor guilt, because I am worried about that the people who aren’t as well resourced as I am.”

Ultimately, Larade questioned why a school of 400 students does not offer some form of after-school care in calling for closer cooperation among schools and after-school care providers. She would also like to see some sort of a portal that allows parents to survey and access the options before them.

“There seems to be a disjointed system, when it comes to child care in general, and there is no place that is easily accessible for parents to find out what the options are,” she said. “You kind of have to know somebody, who knows somebody.”

Larade plans to raise these and other issues early in 2020 when she plans to meet with local MLA Adam Olsen.

“I’m excited at least that this is on his radar, because he has been doing a lot work on what is broken in the education system in B.C. and how that impacts the Peninsula communities in particular. But it is everywhere,” she said.

So what accounts for the limited supply for various forms of child care?

Readshaw said it reflects the high number of families with working parents, the shortage of appropriate and affordable space, and changing demographics.

“Sure, we are an older community and we have lots of senior citizens, but younger families with needs too, obviously,” she said.


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