Daycare's short notice of impending closure leaves Kelowna parents scrambling for child care

An educator is pictured in a play group at the Gordon Avenue branch of Building Blocks EduCare, a child-care provider in Kelowna, B.C. (Building Blocks EduCare - image credit)
An educator is pictured in a play group at the Gordon Avenue branch of Building Blocks EduCare, a child-care provider in Kelowna, B.C. (Building Blocks EduCare - image credit)

The impending closure of a daycare centre in Kelowna, B.C., has left dozens of parents frantically searching for child care for their children.

Building Blocks Educare, which has run two branches in the Central Okanagan city for 15 years, announced Wednesday it will be shutting the doors of its Gordon Avenue branch on Feb. 28, giving parents less than a month to find new child-care spaces for their children.

Its Sutherland Avenue branch, meanwhile, has been sold to another child-care service provider, ProducKIDvity, which will take over on April 1.

Building Blocks co-owner Laura Forbes says she is folding the business because her landlord unexpectedly sold the Gordon Drive property in summer 2021, and she has since been unable to find another affordable location.

ProducKIDvity
ProducKIDvity

"We realize that losing our building was virtually the same as losing our business, and we would be starting all over again," said Forbes in a written statement.

She adds that the Sutherland Avenue branch will operate until March 31, before ProducKIDvity takes over.

'A bittersweet pill to swallow': parent

Kelowna parent Chelsea Howanyk says she has been under huge pressure to find a child-care spot for her three-year-old son, who is enrolled in Building Blocks's Gordon Avenue branch.

"It was a bittersweet pill to swallow," she told host Chris Walker on CBC's Daybreak South Friday, of the closure.

"I feel like I'm going to cry this morning."

As a liquor store employee, Howanyk says she can't easily take time off to take care of her kid, because the store is short-staffed and she has used all her annual leave days for the year.

"It's pretty much a slap in the face," she added, saying Building Blocks had promised parents they would remain open until 2025.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, non-profit Okanagan Family and Childcare Society said it estimates more than 100 families will be affected by the closure of Building Blocks's Gordon Avenue branch.

Executive director Melissa Hunt-Anderson said parents of infants and toddlers normally have to wait two years for child-care spaces.

Howanyk says she isn't optimistic ProducKIDvity would take her son, because she expects it will prioritize children currently enrolled in Building Blocks's Sutherland Avenue branch.

In its letter to parents, Building Blocks said it doesn't expect to re-open in other locations in the near future given the shortage of early childhood educators in the Okanagan region, and that it would be difficult hiring back laid-off staff who have accepted jobs elsewhere.

Building Blocks has declined CBC's request for an interview, but co-owner Brie Elson said in an email to Howanyk that the company is working with Okanagan Family and Childcare Society and other child care providers to create spaces for children enrolled in the Gordon Avenue branch.

ProducKIDvity CEO Alex Carnio told CBC in an emailed statement that she is in lease negotiations for two properties, hoping to turn them into child-care spaces by the end of the year to accommodate Gordon Avenue children.