Child care survey underway 

Deadline is Dec. 31 for input on present and future child care needs

Child care has been a growing issue in Whistler in recent years, with changes to the federal funding formula, the proposed closure of the Teddy Bear Day Care at Millennium Place, and most recently the closure of programs for kids aged three to 36 months at Spring Creek because of a lack of provincially certified staff. More than 100 children are currently on the waitlist for the Nesters facility.

In order to determine what the current and future child care needs of local parents are, as well as their preferred mode of delivery, the Resort Municipality of Whistler launched an online survey this week at www.arboreeducational.com. You can answer the survey online, or request a PDF version. The deadline for responding is Dec. 31.

According to Councillor Ralph Forsyth, who led the battle to save the Teddy Bear Daycare, the survey has been in the works for a long time.

“It goes back more than a year and a half ago when (the Whistler Children’s Centre) came to council for $120,000 in emergency funding,” he said. “They ended up getting about $70,000, but I called up Kari Gaudet to find out what was happening and why things weren’t going so well for child care. That led to more talks and meetings over the last year, including regional meetings, to really get a pulse on what was happening.”

The proposed closure of the Teddy Bear Daycare this past June was the catalyst to action, says Forsyth.

The Whistler Millennium Place board made the decision based on the low number of kids using the program. While Forsyth could have supported another group using the facility in the short term, he drew the line at any permanent change that would prevent it from ever serving as a daycare again.

“The bottom line is that we don’t know what the need is going to be in the future, and once that space is gone, it’s gone,” he said.

The survey asks people what their needs and preferences are, whether they prefer the idea of centres or the option of creating in-house daycare centres through the village. It will also help determine future staffing needs.

But for Forsyth, the survey will also help the municipality plan for space.

“We need to know by 2020, if our population is 15,000, what our child care needs are going to be,” he said. “For example, we have Rainbow going in, and there’s a zoned property in there for daycare, but right now there’s nobody building it. We need to know what infrastructure we need, and whether it’s going to be in-house or not. Do we have to come up with a lot of money to build those spaces, or do we have to build it into future zoning?”

His main goal is to ensure that daycare is available. “The reality is, when parents are four or five months pregnant they have to get on the waitlist then or they might not get in when they need it,” he said. “It’s not a barometer of health for the whole community, but we need to find a way to make it work.”

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