By Andrea Arnold
McBride’s Robson Valley Community Services location has announced that they will not be offering a preschool any longer.
This information was brought to the attention of the community through a post on Facebook. The person posting attached the letter she had received from RVCS as well as a letter she sent back to them in reply.
The letter from RVCS, dated August 6th, stated that due to the arrival of Little Munchkins Child Care services in McBride, RVCS decided that it made sense for them to focus time and resources in other areas.
“Our Supported Child Development Program will still be offering services in McBride, and will continue to support present and future clients to the best of our ability and resources,” said the letter.
The person who posted to social media voiced her disappointment that the program that her son had benefited so much from last year, and intended to attend this year as well, was no longer being offered. She said it didn’t just affect her but the whole community.
She addressed the statement made by RVCS regarding Little Munchkins saying that although it is an incredible asset, it is not a preschool, is limited in space and has a higher fee.
“Highlighting that the Supported child Development Program will still be offered is great, as my family benefits from this program and resources, but it is not inclusion,” she said. “Segregated learning options completely miss the mark and defeat the purpose. All kids can learn and learning is demonstrated in multiple ways. At home, in our community and with peers.”
She recounted that over the past year of attending preschool, her child learned routine, structure and the environment of learning alongside peers that would prepare him for school, without the pressure of academics. She stated that she feels that the loss of the preschool program is a loss for all children, for this year and years to come.
She also directed three questions to RVCS. Are there any pilot programs or initiatives currently underway? Opportunities to partner with the new daycare? What other areas are you intending to focus on that benefit the needs of the children in this community?
She also expressed gratitude for the preschool staff saying that their hearts were truly with the children and unaware of the new changes taking place.
The post generated outcry from a variety of residents. Those with preschool-aged children as well as other members of the community wanting to voice their disappointment and concern for the young generation of upcoming students.
In response, RVCS issued their own statement acknowledging and addressing concerns, published on their Facebook page.
“We can understand why this may feel like disappointing news to the community and families and appreciate the opportunity to talk more about it,” they said.
The letter stated that they do not have the funding, resources or qualified ECE staff to operate a preschool in McBride.
“Many may not be aware that our senior child development consultant was running the preschool through a limited time program exemption we were able to negotiate in order to offer some semblance of childcare to the community when there was a lack of childcare in McBride,” they said.
The program was being run as a standalone program, without specific funding as a short term solution using staff from other RVCS programs.
“As there is now a licensed childcare centre in McBride (Little Munchkins) this negotiated exemption has expired and is no longer on the table to continue,” they said.
They disclosed that they should have closed the preschool last year when Little Munchkins opened but wanted to ensure their program was sustainable before closing. As they have never been contractually obligated to provide childcare of any kind, RVCS has always endeavoured to ensure that there is Supported Child Development Consultation in McBride. This service helps provide support for children with support at any licensed childcare centre that exists now or in the future.
“The SCD program funds a part-time SCD Consultant and a part-time SCD Support Worker to offer support and assistance to any child that is navigating developmental delays and/or has specialized support needs in order to be included in programming if they are attending a licensed centre as per contract,” they said.
In the absence of a licensed child care centre, RVCS refocused these two positions to provide a preschool program two mornings a week, creating an environment where they could work to support these children within a licensed centre. The closure of the preschool will allow these workers to return to focus on fulfilling their contractual obligation to provide their services on a part-time basis in a licensed childcare centre.
“We’re looking forward to those staff being able to go back to focusing on their mandates and freed up to provide their services to families outside of, and without bias to their own preschool program, and more importantly without the added layer of having to also be preschool teachers and run a preschool on top of doing the jobs they were hired into and are funded to do,” said RVCS.
RVCS says the newly renovated space at the McBride RVCS location will continue to provide accessible, inclusive programming to all families, children and in collaboration with community partners.
The letter explained that McBride would like to move towards a similar arrangement that has been reached in Valemount, working together with the Valemount Children’s Activity Society to provide affordable childcare for the community.
“In the meantime, until we are able to achieve that collaborative goal, there is sustainable funding on the table, and qualified ECE staff willing to work for the ECE wages laid out in our collective agreement, we will continue to focus on the things we are funded to do and have capacity to sustain,” they said.
Although Little Munchkins Dayhome currently does not offer any preschool programming, founder Tabitha Reis is open to the possibility of expanding their services.
“It is something I am considering based on how upset the community is about the preschool closing,” she said. “It’s something I would look at offering once we have our own space as finding space and staff has been a continuing challenge.”
Finding staff to provide childcare for all age groups is a problem Reis has faced since opening. Their current focus is on offering an infant toddler program but they are struggling to find staff for that demographic.
“I am hopeful we will get staff eventually so we can provide this service as I already have enough people interested to fill those spots,” she said.
Reis is working on finding grant money to help grow the program and is waiting on an agreement from the Village before she can submit her grant application.