Spring Creek daycare to close Friday 

The Spring Creek campus of the Whistler Children’s Centre will halt programs for Dandelions and Daisies aged three to 19 months, and Sprouts and Blueberries aged 19 to 36 months.

The programs were cancelled because of a lack of staff with Infant Toddler and Early Childhood Education certifications. The certifications are required by the province.

A last-ditch effort to recruit qualified employees — as well as to lobby the province to temporarily set aside its requirements and speed up the recognition of out-of-province credentials — increased awareness of daycare issues in Whistler, but ultimately could not save the programs. The last day for infant programs at Spring Creek is Friday, Nov. 28.

“We are expecting to close this Friday, nothing has changed,” said children’s centre coordinator Kari Gaudet. “We’ve had more conversations with (Minister of State for Child Care) Linda Reid, with (West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA) Joan McIntyre, with (West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky MP) John Weston, but at this point no one is able to help us.

“We have had quite a few applications to the centre, but most are what we would call responsible adults or qualified assistants… but they don’t have the full Early Childhood Educator designation that we require.”

Some 26 families, who were using the program at least one day a week, will be directly affected.

The infant programs at Nesters will continue to run, although the waitlist was cut off with more than 100 families looking for space.

According to Gaudet, some of the families that have used Spring Creek have managed to get their children into infant programs at the Nesters centre for at least a few days a week. This has happened because some families voluntarily pulling their children out to make space for others, or because Pemberton residents with jobs in Whistler have started to use the Pemberton daycare facilities.

Other parents have shifted their work schedules to be home with their children or to take advantage of available days at Nesters. Gaudet also believes that some parents were attempting to group together to hire nannies and create their own alternative to daycare, but she has not heard from any parents that were successful.

“Other families are struggling, and phoning us on a regular basis to ask if it’s still happening,” said Gaudet. “We know of one family that may have to quit a job if something doesn’t change, because right now there are no other child care options available to them.”

Gaudet emphasized that the children’s centre would continue to work on the issue with governments and stakeholders, and to get creative in recruiting and keeping staff. She pointed to a new parents committee that has been formed, which is holding a fundraiser next week to help daycares with operating costs.

“My biggest hope is that people will realize how much the community relies on child care, and that people will support this event,” she said. “It’s not just about parents, and whether their children are attending now, or whether they are on the waitlist. This is an important issue for the community, for employers that have employees that rely on child care, or people that rely on services that these parents provide.”

The first annual Whistler Children’s Centre Silent Auction will be held at Players Chophouse, Creekside, on Dec. 3 from 7 p.m. to midnight. All members of the community are invited to attend the fundraiser, which will include a silent auction, music with a DJ, tapas and wine, cash bar and door prizes. The proceeds will go towards the centre’s operating costs and assist in the recruitment and retention of qualified staff.

Tickets for the fundraiser are $55, and are available at The Whistler Children’s Centre (Nesters), Moguls Café and the Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa Concierge Desk.

Local businesses that are interested in donating silent auction items may contact Stacey Royal at 604-932-0507, or by e-mail at sroyal@shaw.ca. Tax donation receipts are available if desired.

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