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Local child care limited by lack of space in school

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(Left) Parent Erin Warsaba, Evan Warsaba, Ben Horn, Bright Beginnings Educare director Melodie Meakin, Cole Warsaba, Chelsea Kingerski and supervisor of Bright Beginnings’s school-age program Jen Cardinal, with Carter Kingerski and Shae Guarino in the front, stand outside Phoenix School in Headingley. Bright Beginnings offers a school-age care program at the school but more space is needed.

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(Left) Parent Erin Warsaba, Evan Warsaba, Ben Horn, Bright Beginnings Educare director Melodie Meakin, Cole Warsaba, Chelsea Kingerski and supervisor of Bright Beginnings’s school-age program Jen Cardinal, with Carter Kingerski and Shae Guarino in the front, stand outside Phoenix School in Headingley. Bright Beginnings offers a school-age care program at the school but more space is needed. Photo Store

Parents of school-age children in Headingley are asking the St. James-Assiniboia School Division for more space to offer before- and after-school care.

Headingley’s Bright Beginnings Educare provides care for 10 kindergarten and 35 students in Grades 1 to 5 within Phoenix School in Headingley. However, according to vice-chair of Bright Beginnings’ board Sally Guarino, who also chairs the organization’s school-age committee, more than 45 spaces are needed.

Guarino and other parents with children in the Bright Beginnings program attended a St. James-Assiniboia school board meeting on June 24 and presented a petition containing 131 signatures of parents requesting more child care spaces.

"We are continuing to collect more signatures," Guarino wrote in an email message following the meeting.

She also gave a presentation to the board outlining the parents’ concerns. These include having just one permanent classroom available for lease by Bright Beginnings, the fact that Bright Beginnings now has a total of 80 infant and preschool spaces with just 45 for kindergarten to Grade 5 students, the expanded catchment area for Phoenix School, a lengthy wait list bearing from 60 to 80 names, the fact that two new classrooms are being added to the school, Headingley’s continuing residential growth, and the lack of other child care options in the area.

Bright Beginnings now rents one room within the school and is able to use another room in the afternoon, but not on in-service days or during the summer.

The presentation stated that extra classroom space would allow Bright Beginnings staff to improve the quality of programming offered and to add more child care spaces if a current funding request is approved by the provincial government.

It also read: "Many local families have been forced to move their children to private or public schools outside of the Headingley school catchment in order to secure before and after-school child care."

Guarino sees the lack of space as a problem that will become even more serious as Headingley’s residential growth continues, with 80 to 120 new homes forecast to be built each year.

"The School Board noted that their mandate/scope of authority is to ensure they are providing enough space for education needs, allocating classrooms in order to provide space for child care is not within their scope of authority," wrote Guarino. "They suggested we speak with our MLA."

She said they have contacted MLA Shannon Martin (Morris)and are sending him a copy of their presentation.

School division spokesperson Pat Elsworth said the Bright Beginnings presentation was referred to the Finance and Facilities Committee for information and review in September.

Guarino said she and other parents plan on attending that committee meeting on Sept. 9.

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