Black Press file photo

Black Press file photo

Surrey looks to public schools for daycare spaces before and after classes

Surrey roughly 11,000 spaces short compared to national average, Coun. Linda Annis says

The City of Surrey is asking the school district and provincial government to provide daycare space in the schools before and after classes.

Surrey ccouncil approved a motion to that end, brought forward by Coun. Linda Annis. Coun. Brenda Locke was the lone council member to vote against her motion, which called on city staff to “begin discussions with the School District, School Board and Provincial government to determine how schools can provide much needed local daycare space on their premises before and after school.”

Annis told council that compared to the national average, Surrey falls short roughly 11,000 daycare spaces, something she says is particularly concerning in a city that continues to grow rapidly and has a lot of young families. She noted Surrey has 14.9 daycare spaces for every 100 children, while the national average is 27.2 spaces per 100 children.

“As a result, it’s easy to see how big of an issue it is for Surrey’s families,” Annis said. “Using our schools would ease the burden for parents also dropping off their kids – it’s one-stop-drop, so to speak. We need to start looking at more creative ways to provide daycare and it’s only going to get harder and harder to find. Our schools are safe, clean, accessible and for the most part they’re sitting empty immediately before and after school.”

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Locke said she agrees Surrey needs more daycare spaces and needs to be “more creative,” but added “I don’t think this will get us there.” She said the City of Surrey has discussed the matter with the district “on a number of occasions – certainly I have personally – and I know the pressure on Surrey School District is enormous.

“I don’t think this is viable,” she said. “I do think we need to look at alternatives; I don’t know what those are, but I just don’t think putting more pressure on a school district that’s already under significant pressure, busting at the seams with the number of children that are coming into our city is not going to be helpful to the school district.”

Locke said Surrey’s schools are already “doing stuff” after classes let out. “They are pretty busy all the time so I just don’t think it’s viable.”

Coun. Mandeep Nagra also expressed doubts.

“I don’t see this going anywhere; I’ll still support it because there’s a huge shortage of daycare spaces in the city of Surrey,” Nagra said. “I’ll support it, but schools are already under numerous pressures so I don’t see this going anywhere.”

Ritinder Matthew, associate director of communication for Surrey Schools, told the Now-Leader on Wednesday that the district “recognizes the importance of before and after school care and we are committed to providing this critical support for families.

“A number of our schools offer before and after school care, and this is operated by community providers,” she noted. “We have publicly posted our interest in finding non profit operators for this care – this request for proposals is currently posted on BC Bid.

“We are continuing to work with our provincial and community partners, including the City of Surrey, to provide the care and support families need by increasing the number of spaces available within our district. With respect to what was discussed by Surrey council, we have not heard from the City of Surrey yet on what they have in mind, but we look forward to hearing their proposal.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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