Childcare just got a lot more affordable for local parents, as the Bonnyville and District Daycare was approved for a provincial grant to drop their fee to $25 per day.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for the community and also for the daycare. We are extremely excited about being provided this opportunity to be one of the very first Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) Centres in Alberta,” said Ruth Tellier, daycare board chair.
The $25 per day daycare is part of a provincial pilot program that will see 22 existing and new agencies become ELCC Centres. Last week, the Government of Alberta announced the centres that were approved for funding, noting the selection was based on a number of factors including space and job creation, flexibility, accessible locations, and improvements to the existing childcare system.
Children between the ages of zero and six are eligible for the care, with the centres allowed to offer flexible hours between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. seven days a week. For ELCC Centres that have existing programs, such as the Bonnyville daycare does, the pilot program will come into play as of May 1.
“I’m super excited for what it means for our community. With the economic downturn that we’ve had the last couple of years, it feels so right for us to give parents an opportunity to go back to school or go to work, and feel comfortable knowing their child is safe in quality, affordable childcare,” executive director Kim Harvie said.
Currently, the local daycare centre operates between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. The cost to enrol a child full time in the program ranges from $980 per month for kids aged 12 to 19 months, to $900 per month for children three to five-years-old.
Thanks to the pilot funding, even a child who goes to daycare for 30 days per month would only cost $750.
When it comes to the expanded hours, Harvie explained their opening times outside of the current operational hours will depend on what parents want.
“This will allow us to reach two other target groups: oil field workers and retail workers. Now there’s care open for those people as well. Those hours will only be offered if there is a need. For instance, if we have one child that needs care at 5:30 a.m. but our next child doesn’t need care until 8:30 a.m., then it’s not feasible. If we have one child that needs care at 5:30, one at 6 a.m. and one at 6:30, well then that’s three children within an hour and we can make those hours accessible.”
For Tellier, as a local business owner she believes the expanded hours will be a welcome option for parents.
“I own a retail business, I have employees here until nine o’clock at night and weekends. The world doesn’t stop, so I think we will be surprised about the number that will come forward, even if it’s just until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., but just to have those extra hours.”
The Bonnyville and District Daycare has seen an influx in parents wanting to use the service over the past few months. As of Oct. 1, 2016, there were just 25 kids at the daycare, that jumped to 48 local children that the centre is caring for as of last week.
To deal with the rising registration numbers, last month Bonnyville Town Council granted the daycare the use of another room with the FCSS building to expand their service. With this extra space, there are 20 spots still available for children, to bring the total capacity to 68.
On Monday evening, the daycare held a community registration to see how many of those remaining spots they could fill.
“There’s definitely a possibility of needing a future expansion, but that’s something we’re going to work closely with all of the other community groups involved – the town, FCSS, and probably the Boys and Girls Club too because they are also in a town facility,” said Harvie. “I know there’s going to be a lot of strategic planning so we can work out what’s best for our community.”
In addition to making childcare more affordable, this announcement will also create jobs in the community as the daycare will be looking to hire extra staff to accommodate the additional kids in their care.
The program is a three-year pilot. At the end of the three years, the provincial government will be evaluating its success and determining whether or not to continue the funding for $25 per day childcare, or possibly expanding the program.