Parents on the North Shore can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that a lot more childcare spaces will open up across North and West Vancouver in the near future.
The British Columbian government announced Friday (May 21) it is investing in a further 11 projects to create 681 new licensed child care spaces across the province, as part of its Childcare BC plan.
The investment is good news for the North Shore, which will receive funding for three new projects that will offer 181 new spaces across two centres in North Vancouver and an extra 96 spaces at a facility in West Vancouver.
One of the projects on the list is a revamp of Bee Haven’s childcare centre at the old Mount Olivet Lutheran Church site on Mountain Highway in North Vancouver. The church recently folded due to lack of membership and was sold to new owners.
The $250,000 government boost will go towards a full renovation of the site, which will create a total of 48 new licensed child care spaces, including 24 spaces for infants and toddlers, two spaces for children aged three years to kindergarten and 22 preschool spaces.
“Opening a full centre at the Mount Olivet site has been our dream for about 10 years now,” said Louise Warner, Bee Haven president, chief executive and owner. “It's the perfect site. There is such a lack of infant-toddler care in this particular area of Lynn Valley that to be able to provide this is just so exciting for us and it's exciting for our families that are expanding right now.”
Bee Haven now offers seven childcare sites and 10 programs across the North Shore, but there’s still a “huge demand” for childcare in all age groups, so, expansions are necessary, said Warner, who took over the company in 2009.
“We probably have a waitlist for over 150 infant toddlers, if not more,” she said. “For school aged children, people are putting them on the list right now for the 2025 or 2026 school year.
“That's how desperate families are for daycare, especially school aged care.” She said Bee Haven’s goal moving forward was to provide hub centres for families.
“This is where we provide care for babies right through until the 12th birthday,” Warner explained, adding it took the stress away from parents having to find alternative solutions as the child grows up.
“It allows the parents to have ongoing community relationships. It has been working at our Dollarton Highway site and we're excited to be doing this at the Mount Olivet site."
The renovation is scheduled to be complete by this summer. The facility will also partner with occupational therapists and other specialists to provide programming that is accessible to children with support needs.
While the church has closed, Warner said they’d still work to maintain relationships with community groups who also use the site.
“I think it's a great use of a building that is no longer going to be a church but can still be a part of the community," she said.
Meanwhile, the City of North Vancouver has received funding to help build its new Mahon Park Child Care Facility. The facility is scheduled to open in 2023 and will offer 37 new licensed childcare spaces, including 12 spaces for infants and toddlers and 25 spaces for children aged three years to kindergarten.
The centre will also help support newly landed immigrants and refugees in the community.
Linda Buchanan, Mayor of the City of North Vancouver, said the announcement was great news for the community.
“Accessing affordable and licensed child care is a huge challenge for young families, and lack of spaces in our community has resulted in many parents, often women, leaving the workforce,” Buchanan said in a release.
“The city is committed to working in partnership with the province to create new spaces that support the well-being of children and the lives of working parents.”
In West Vancouver, CEFA Early Learning School will be able to renovate a space at the Park Royal Shopping Centre that will create 96 new licensed childcare spaces, including 48 spaces for infants and toddlers and 48 spaces for children aged three years to kindergarten. This facility, which is set to open in winter this year, will also offer additional support and services for vulnerable families.
Since the launch of Childcare BC in July 2018, almost 26,000 new licensed child care spaces have been funded in B.C., including 3,518 in Vancouver, 891 in North Vancouver, 118 in West Vancouver and 132 in Squamish. An additional 4,370 spaces were also funded through the 2017 Budget Update and the Early Learning and Child Care agreement with the Government of Canada.
Early childhood educators in Vancouver, North Vancouver and West Vancouver-Sea to Sky have received more than $9.2 million combined to help with childcare.
Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News