The province announced over $1 million in grants for local governments to do an inventory on child care spaces last month. (Province of B.C. photo)

Kent to test out drop-in daycare at CRCC this fall

The service will run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from September to December

Parents in the District of Kent will be able to get child minding for their toddlers while they work out at the Community Recreation and Cultural Centre, starting this September.

On Monday (June 24), council voted to begin a trial child care service at the CRCC in the fall. The program — running Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 8:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. — will allow parents to drop their kids off while they attend a fitness class. Fees will be $3 per child for members, and $4 for non-members. Child care will be limited to an hour and a half per child, with an age range between newborn and five years old.

According to director of community services and projects Jennifer Thornton, the district has seen a demand for this kind of service from parents.

“Staff had received a request from the community back in February, asking if it was possible to have child minding at the centre,” she told council Monday, adding that one parent in the community has been “standing behind (the idea) and rallying the moms in the community.”

SEE ALSO: Chilliwack-Kent MLA critiques B.C. child care, comes under fire for year-old comment saying parents can just stay home

During a public engagement session in May, parents said they would be interested in using a child care service at the recreation centre and some noted that they would likely go to the gym more if it was available.

“If child care were available, in September, she could commit to going to the gym two to three times a week,” Jonathan Wouda wrote about his wife in a letter to Thornton on the proposed service. “Currently, it is very difficult for her to arrange child care during the day for a short window to go to the gym.”

The district had offered child minding services at the recreation centre in the past, which Thornton said did not succeed because “participation and attendance was challenging,” something that continues to be an overall challenge at the rec centre today.

But, she said the engagement shown by parents so far provides a good indication that the service could be successful this time around.

“If we align it with good fitness classes and activities and programs, and start to build that culture, I think that will make the difference,” she said.

There are challenges to offering child care at the recreation centre, however. Only eight children can be accepted into the program, because otherwise the recreation centre would have to hire another staff member, and the fees won’t completely cover the costs of the program.

“If we run the program with eight participants on average, three days a week with one staff member, we’d be at a loss at about $1,500 for the fall,” Thornton said. However, she added, the program does have “significant value” for the community.

SEE ALSO: 53 B.C. daycares move to $10-a-day pilot

Council voted in favour of the trial child minding program, which will run from September to December this year.

“I think what the rec centre is trying to do is build membership and build participation,” Coun. Stan Watchorn said. “Sometimes you have to invest a little bit in order to do that.”

Coun. Susan Spaeti was also in favour of the program.

“They do seem like they’re really interested in this, and they really want to try to make it work,” she said about the parents. “They want to work with us.”

She also added that the CRCC’s preschool programs could be revamped to bring in more people to the community centre.

“With the changes that we are going to be making with Miss Marge gone (from Variety Play), we’re going to be looking at a whole new preschool thing,” Spaeti said. “I think this is a good way to bring in that demographic that we might not be grasping.”

RELATED: After 30 years, Agassiz’s Miss Marge set to retire from Variety Play

Thornton agreed.

“The idea is to start to generate activities and programs for young parents, attracting families to the community, and for preschoolers at the rec centre,” she said, noting that these programs could help offset some of the costs associated with the child minding service.

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