Parents struggle to find daycare as B.C. schools make space for more classrooms

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Parents struggle to find daycare as B.C. schools make space for more classrooms

A recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling on classroom size and composition in B.C. is having an unintended effect for young children: shutting them out of school-based daycares to make more space for classrooms.

Such is the case at the non-profit, The Grove Childcare, which serves three- to five-year-olds out of Forest Grove Elementary School in Burnaby, B.C. The daycare also provides before and after school care.

"This is a microcosm of what's happening around the province," said teacher Liz Byrne. 

"I loved that we got that Supreme Court ruling, and it's all piles of good for our kids ... The issue now is let's make sure we don't displace the good hard work we've been doing to get the daycares into the schools."

The daycare's program for preschool-aged children will have to close in August, according to founder and director Jenn Tanguay, but the before and after school care will remain open.

Schools across B.C. have been scrambling to find more space in time for September. The Supreme Court decision, which came out in September after a 15-year battle, means schools will have to pack fewer children into each classroom — but they will need more classroom space.

But parents and daycare providers say now there isn't enough daycare space available for younger children not yet in school, leaving parents in a lurch.  

'Where are we supposed to go?'

"The crisis right now is so bad for daycare that people are taking to substandard care," said parent Steve Miller. 

"Where are we supposed to go? There's nothing," said parent Amber Clancy.

Some politicians leading up to the election have promised daycare for $10 per day, but Tanguay said that won't help a problem that comes from lack of space.

Non-profit community daycares like Forest Grove have to have proper zoning and an outdoor play area.

"If you had fully funded daycare where parents were completely subsidized, I couldn't help them," Tanguay said. "Because there's nowhere I could put them." 

Tanguay, who agrees with the Supreme Court ruling, said the issue is not about assigning blame. The school district has been supportive of the daycare, providing a classroom with space for 20 preschool-aged children for eight years, something she said she is grateful for. 

"It's not about who's the bad guy right now, it's about who's going to be the good guy and step up and fix this problem for our province."

With files from Deborah Goble