Eagle Valley Community Support Society executive director Janet McClean Senft and childcare centre manager Penny Deeter show off the inside of the new Little Bears Child Care Centre in Sicamous on Wednesday, Feb. 3. (Jim Elliot-Eagle Valley News)

New childcare centre opening soon in Sicamous

The centre is operated by a non-profit society and will pay a $1 per-year lease for the building

Organizers of a non-profit daycare on the verge of opening its doors in Sicamous say it will provide quality childcare at a reasonable cost to families who need it.

Little Bears Child Care Centre, located in a fully renovated former church on Cedar Street, is going through its final permit approvals before it can open. The District of Sicamous, the Eagle Valley Community Support Society (EVCSS) which holds the lease for the facility, and it’s new manager are all eagerly awaiting the day when the facility will be full of children.

The District of Sicamous purchased the former Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses after receiving a substantial grant from a provincial government program aimed at creating more childcare spaces. They are leasing the facility to the EVCSS for $1 per year.

Inside, the freshly renovated centre is fitted with a kitchen, light wood furniture and a variety of toys and games. Outside, it is surrounded by a locking gate, has a brand-new playground and space for an outdoor classroom and garden.

Janet McClean-Senft, executive director of the support society, said they formed an early years committee which began looking into childcare options for Sicamous almost 20 years ago. She said they have known for some time that a large licensed childcare facility would be important for drawing more young families to the Sicamous area.

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McClean-Senft noted the contributions of Gwyneth Gau and EVCSS board president Pamela Beech in bringing the society into a new type of community service by managing the daycare. She added Jamie Sherlock, Sicamous’ recreation coordinator, found a similar unmet childcare need when dealing with families, and made the district aware of the funding opportunities which eventually made the childcare centre a reality.

Penny Deeter, the manager of the new childcare centre, described the space as an early childhood educator’s dream. She said the advantages of a community-owned space is less overhead costs and assistance from the district with matters like snow removal, garbage disposal and utilities. She said less overhead means more flexibility such as the ability to offer seasonal or part-time childcare which might be challenging in a for-profit daycare. Deeter said the centre’s affiliation with the community support society will allow them to quickly connect families with other services they may need.

The low overhead made possible by the virtually free lease from the district will also allow them to offer childcare which McClean-Senft said will be very reasonably priced compared to what families pay elsewhere. As demand for less expensive childcare becomes a major issue in B.C., McClean-Senft said there has been a trend towards non profit societies opening up childcare spaces.

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The centre will have space for 25 full-time children, and Deeter and McClean-Senft said 14 children are already on a wait list.

Once the daycare centre is up and running, Deeter said they have planned a partnership with the Splatsin Band’s daycare centre. She said the walls of the centre in Sicamous will be getting some Splatsin artwork which she hopes will start conversations on First Nations history with the children.

Deeter has a background in teaching early childhood educators and hopes students from nearby colleges will be able to do their practicums at the centre.

Allowing the children at the centre to ask questions about topics that interest them and choose the direction of their own learning will be a big part of the program at Little Bears Child Care Centre. Deeter said they will be following the Reggio Emilia childhood education philosophy, which originated in Italy and allows children to gravitate towards topics that interest them and learn by touching, moving, listening and observing. A connection with nature will also be part of the learning philosophy; Deeter said they will be spending as much time as possible outside.



jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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