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Cumberland, school district apply for child care grant

Comox Valley Record - 10/17/2020

Cumberland is taking its next step toward a new child care facility for the rapidly growing community.

At the most recent meeting on Oct. 13, council passed a resolution to explore a partnership with School District 71 to set up a new facility through a provincial grant.

The deadline to apply for funding through the Childcare BC New Spaces Fund is coming up for the beginning of November, so the impetus was on council to move quickly to submit an application. This would be for funding of up to $3 million to create up to 75 new spaces for child care in the community.

"This is a real exciting project…. There's some real opportunity here, " economic development officer Kaelin Chambers told council.

He also said beyond providing spaces for child care, the partnership could also create more space for community uses. It is expected the provincial government will make a decision in February, with work to start by the end of next year.

"We would need to have shovels in the ground by the end of December," he said.

As well as the grant application, the council resolution includes reference to working with the school district as partners to establish the facility on school property. Coun. Jesse Ketler expressed support for the plan, saying working with the school district would help them meet criteria for funding.

"They do give preference to projects that are on school grounds," she said. "We have a lot better chance with this application…. Seventy-five spaces is a lot."

Finally, the resolution includes engaging the Boys & Girls Clubs of Vancouver Island for expertise on submitting applications.

Coun. Vickey Brown supported the proposal but had reservations about limiting further application discussion to the Boys & Girls Club, saying there were other care providers in the community who could provide input. She was concerned the move suggests they would be giving the Boys & Girls Club the opportunity to be the care provider. Brown also said she wants to make sure the youth centre on the school grounds is protected.

"It serves a very specific need for vulnerable students," she said.

Staff emphasized the plan now is simply to take advantage of Boys & Girls Clubs of Vancouver Island's expertise with licensed care applications.

"They're known for these types of agreements," Chambers said.

They said the relationship would not go beyond this, nor limit the choice of who could operate a new child care facility resulting from a successful grant application.

"We would also need to identify … a licensed operator to operate this type of facility," he said, adding they would seek expressions of interest from providers in the community and through the Comox Valley region.

At a meeting last month, council considered an application for child care at the old United Church on Penrith Avenue. The proposal came from a partnership between the Weird Church, Pacific Mountain Region of the United Church of Canada and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Vancouver Island. Rather than joining the partnership, council agreed to send a letter of support about the general idea of the project and the need for spaces in the community.