Local parents are scrambling once more as an after-school care program closes this month just months after it opened to replace a program that had closed months earlier.
Beacon’s Nature Club offering nature-based after-school care for 5- to 12-year-old children at Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church will close its doors Dec. 20. Beacon Community Services started the service in September after KELSET Elementary School reclaimed space from an after-school program offered at that school. That program closed its doors on June 28.
Two dozen families received notification of the pending closure. Sharon Larade’s family was one of them and she is now struggling to find alternatives for her son.
“I am just a parent, who is freaking out because I don’t have child care, and if don’t have child care, I can’t work,” she said. “So it is a pretty big stresser.” Larade said the closure has upset her family’s planning as the centre had committed itself to care run until the end of June, including during the Christmas break and the March 2020 spring break.
Beacon Community Services, which runs the service, announced the closure last month.
“We’re sorry to say we will be not be continuing the Beacon’s Nature Club out-of-school care program past the end of December,” said Nicole Hietamaa, out-of-school care coordinator in a letter dated Nov. 15. “We realize this is surprising news and we very much regret any inconvenience or disruption it may cause your family.”
According to Hietamaa’s letter, the church appears to have reclaimed the space for its own purposes.
“We are grateful to the congregation and [minister] of Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church for opening their doors and hosting Beacon’s Nature Club since September,” she said. “We also recognize and respect the [church] must give priority to a variety of its other core activities and it’s therefore not feasible to continue our current arrangement.”
Hietamaa said in her letter that Beacon Community Services continues to look for appropriate space to offer affordable licensed before- and after-school care for local families. “However, at this time we do not have a viable alternate location,” she said in directing parents to a number of alternatives.
Larade said she is currently exploring a number of alternatives offered by for-profit childcare providers, as well as Panorama Recreation Centre. “Not everybody has coverage for both before and after school care, so that is a challenge,” she said. “Parents including myself are looking at whether or not they can handle changing their work schedules to accommodate either one or the other. If you don’t have a program that goes beyond 5 or 5:30 p.m. and you need coverage until 6 p.m., you need to figure something out.”
Larade also said that she been talking to officials at KELSET Elementary School, as well as the school board. Larade said they are aware of the situation and are said to be working on it, but no conclusive solution has emerged yet.
“For the second time in less than a year, local families are scrambling to apply for last minute childcare in a community that lacks sufficient providers and spaces,” Larade said. “Many providers do not maintain waitlists.”
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