NLPS receiving funding to expand district-run before and after school care

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is one of three districts in B.C. receiving provincial funding this fall for before and after school care, which will enable the district to expand its existing program to more elementary schools.

The Ministry of Education and Child Care is sending $2 million over two years to the three school districts, which the ministry says will create an estimated 180 new licensed child care spaces and help collect information to roll out the childcare model to other districts. NLPS, Chilliwack and Nechako Lakes are representative of different communities and needs throughout B.C., the ministry said. Each district will receive $720,000 that can be used for programming, administrative and operational costs.

NLPS began a pilot program of district-run before and after school care in schools in fall 2023 at École Hammond Bay and Pleasant Valley Elementary in Nanaimo. Currently 48 spaces are operated by the district. With the new funding, NLPS plans to add 48 spaces in September 2024 and 48 spaces in September 2025, according to NLPS’s director of communications, Gillian Robinson.

“These spaces will be affordable for parents as they will meet regional affordability benchmarks set by the ministry,” a ministry press release says. The current cost for full time before and after school care NLPS’s existing space is $449 per month before eligible government subsidies.

In March, the board of education supported a motion to, in principle, expand the district’s program to one to three schools. The motion was made in anticipation of receiving the funding, Robinson said.

Which schools will be selected for the expansion is yet to be determined. “We will be sharing this information with the school communities as soon as they are confirmed, which we expect will be in June,” Robinson said.

Last August the school district ran a survey to assess childcare needs for ages 0-5 as well as before and after school care on Gabriola and in Cedar and Yellowpoint because of their geographical locations and distance from other areas of the district, staff said at the time. The survey results “indicated a need for additional childcare spaces and have been taken into consideration with the plan for expanding our district operated before and after school care,” Robinson said.

NLPS’s 2021-31 long-range facilities plan includes a recommendation to create a strategy to expand childcare to all sites in NLPS for ages 0-5 years as well as before- and after-school care with the goal of providing a “seamless” transition for families and to connect pre-K children to schools.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder