The Surrey School District and Options Community Services have “come to an agreement regarding the joint operation” of the Growing Together program. (Photo: Province of B.C.)

Operator of Surrey daycare program for teen parents gets extension to vacate

School district dropped charity as operator of long-running program, which prompted Options to sue

Options Community Services will continue providing a teen childcare program at Guildford Park Secondary, but only until July 2020.

The Surrey School District and Options, according to a release from the district Wednesday (Aug. 14), have “come to an agreement regarding the joint operation” of the Growing Together program.

The release says Options will “remain in its current location and continue to provide childcare and wrap-around services for young parents finishing their high school education until July 2020.”

Christine Mohr, Options CEO, said the “most important thing” was for the charity to be able to provide certainty as soon as possible to Growing Together students and community families.

“We will continue our search for a new location and we are confident that we will be able to move without disrupting childcare and services to those who count on us,” Mohr said.

Surrey Board of Education chair Laurie Larsen said the board’s priority “is supporting our young mothers who are students of the Surrey School District as they work towards graduation and beyond.”

Options has been running the program in partnership with the district for the past 33 years.

READ ALSO: Surrey charity in ‘shock’ after district drops it from daycare program for teen parents, July 5, 2019

It was also one of the B.C. locations chosen to pilot the NDP’s $10-a-day childcare rates, and is licensed for 36 spots.

Several months ago, the charity received notice that the school district wanted it to move out of the facility by the end of August, Janice Boyle, Options director of development previously told the Now-Leader.

She said at the time she wasn’t given a reason why and stressed it put the clients of the program in jeopardy.

In July, Surrey Schools spokesperson Doug Strachan said the district “went to tender and will have a new daycare operator to manage that part of the program.” He said “that’s all that’s changed” and said there would be no changes to the program.

Asked the reason behind the change, Strachan said the district felt it was “time to refresh our Growing Together program and refocus it again on our students, as well as explore other partnerships that can enhance the program.”

A notice of civil claim was filed against the Surrey School District on July 9, with Options disputing the validity of the termination notice.

READ ALSO: Surrey charity sues school district over daycare program for teen parents, July 10, 2019

“The School District failed to provide Options with reasonable notice that it was terminating Options’ licence of occupation,” the claim states Further, Options states the district “failed to act in good faith in its purported termination of Options’ licence of occupation.”

According to Options’ Notice of Civic Claim, tensions rose between the two parties when the program’s enrolment began to drop in 2017. That year, the charity laid off two staff and began to enrol some families from the community to prevent further layoffs.

That September, Options says the district reduced its days of operation from five to four, resulting in enrolment dropping further.

Strachan said the lawsuit is “not proceeding because we have an agreement,” adding that the “benefit of the agreement is that both parties now know where we stand and (what) the timelines are.”

He said that because of the agreement, the district and options aren’t “getting into any other details around it.”

The Surrey school district’s website describes Growing Together as a “district support program and daycare for students who are attending school and are expecting or are who are young mothers.”

It adds the program “provides social-emotional support, parenting advice, and connections with community agencies, and focuses on helping students graduate.”

With files from Amy Reid

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