Close call for Niverville’s before and after school daycare

It was a close call for the administrator of the before and after school daycare, Semira Getachew, who was nearly forced to shut down the program she runs at the Niverville Elementary School (NES) at the end of this month.

Getachew’s before and after school program has been actively serving families from the school since the fall of 2019.

This year, on June 7, Getachew received an email from Kevin Heide of the Hanover School Division indicating that her lease would not be renewed due to enrolment growth for the 2024–25 school year.

Unsurprisingly, parents of the 33 children enrolled in Getachew’s program next fall were devastated.

One parent, Kayla Tomczak, reached out to staff at the Hanover School Division as well as Niverville Mayor Myron Dyck and Premier Wab Kinew.

“Attached to this email, you will find a letter outlining my extreme disappointment with this decision and the impact it will have on our community,” Tomczak noted in the letter. “The recent denial of the lease renewal for the before and after school program… has sent shockwaves through our community. This program has been a lifeline for many families, providing essential care and support for our children. Its sudden closure will leave a significant void in our community, further exacerbating the already dire childcare shortage we face.”

HSD’s rationale, she added, was perplexing since the program utilizes school space during periods when it is mostly unused by HSD staff.

Getachew, too, pleaded her case with the division. Those pleas, she says, seemed to fall on deaf ears.

But on June 18, almost two weeks after Getachew received the fateful email, Heide reached out again to inform her that the division had changed its mind and would provide space in the elementary school library for the next school year.

For the past five years, Getachew has run a very successful before and after school program, accepting students as early as 7:00 a.m. and running as late as 6:00 p.m.

During those years, despite two years of pandemic, Getachew says the HSD has always been willing to work with her, even when it meant utilizing the library or gymnasium spaces.

This year marked the end of Getachew’s five-year contract with HSD, but until early June she says that she had no reason to believe the contract wouldn’t be renewed. She believed she had a mutually beneficial relationship with the division.

So when Getachew received the untimely notice of her loss of space at NES, and when pleas to Heide for reconsideration were not addressed to her satisfaction, she began to look elsewhere.

She looked for space from the town and local churches, but these efforts came to dead ends.

Doing a little research on her own, Getachew discovered that almost every one of the elementary schools in the city’s divisions offer before and after school childcare.

“Winnipeg division schools have before and after school programs that run in the gym,” Getachew says. “They have no issues. Sage Creek is actually looking for someone right now to run a program. I could apply there and bring my services there, but I live here [in Niverville].”

Beyond herself and the parents who use her daycare program, Getachew says that she also needed to consider her three staffers, who would be without work this coming fall if the program was lost.

“I usually hire students that are in university or college, so they’re depending on [the work],” says Getachew.

Prior to receiving the news of HSD’s change of heart, Getachew spoke to The Citizen, noting the incredibly short notice provided by the division and their unwillingness to listen to reason. She says the past two weeks have been almost unbearable.

“I’m really upset and, yeah, it’s been frustrating,” Getachew said. “I feel bad for these parents… The economy is already bad. A parent quitting their job is not realistic right now. I’m disappointed in how HSD handled things. Had I known about this last January, I would have been more understanding.”

Getachew now sighs a breath of relief for herself and the many parents who will enjoy their summer break without the worry of childcare in fall.

Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen