Not-For-Profit Spotlight: Tumbler Ridge Children’s Centre Society

Stable, But Always Looking For More Space

Lynsey Kitching

Daycare in Tumbler Ridge was a big issue last year. The daycare had 70 students, waitlists and a demand for more space. In response to this demand, a plan, paid for by HD Mining, was created to map out the area for the new daycare facility allocated by the District. The area reserved for a new daycare facility is located near the community centre where there now stands a wooden play area. 
Since the plan was made however, nothing has been done, and the question now remains, is it even needed? Mayor Darwin Wren says, “What we’re hoping is that industry will come forward and support the construction of the building itself, and then the District would assume the operations of the daycare and the associated costs. The society we have in place right now would simply move into it and run as they do, except they’d be able to expand all the programs.”
A new daycare facility would not only create more space for the daycare, but also for other parts of the community centre. Mayor Wren says, “If that were to happen, what it also does is free up the space in the community centre that is being used as a daycare. We could expand our weight room and all that stuff, which really needs to happen as well.”
This year, the daycare is still operating almost at capacity with 55 pupils. There are two pre-school classes, one is Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the other is Tuesday and Thursday. There is also a daycare which operates Monday to Friday with some openings, and lastly there is the out-of-school care which operates Monday to Friday.
Last year there was an extra pre-school class in the afternoon, which was waitlisted. This year there is no extra class, just the two pre-school classes, however some of the students who had originally hoped to be in the pre-school class have been put in the daycare class instead. The pre—school registration is full, the out-of-school care is full with seven people waitlisted, however, there is space available in the daycare program.
 Raelene Bauman, Executive Director for the daycare says they are thankful for the space they have, but they could always use more. She says, “Our out-of-school care program and our pre-school share a classroom. The out-of-school care is in the morning and then pre-school starts. In the afternoon, it shifts back. Last year it was a little hectic because we had our afternoon pre-school class which made it more time sensitive in getting the classroom setup.”
She continues, “Materials are more geared for the younger kids, but for the older kids we bring out their materials. Space-wise, we are cramped and limited as to what we can offer. Right now we are making do with what we have and are appreciative that we have our space. If we can expand, that only means we can serve more of the community and bring more children in. Also, we could possibly look at other programs such as infant and toddler classes, and trying to obtain more qualified staff for expanding programs. That has been a need which has been seen. The youngest we can take is 30 months so there are a lot of families who are seeking care for under two years old. We don’t have a program which offers that.”
Finding qualified staff seems to be tough in all industries in the north, including Early Childhood Education (ECE). Bauman says, “We have six staff right now. In the north it’s always hard to find qualified people. We do get exemptions through licensing if people are working towards credentials and have quality references. We have a few ads out at the local colleges. Northern Lights College is doing a duel program with the high school to train individuals who want to come in. We are trying to open eyes to people who are interested in child care. It’s a good career, it’s exciting and there’s a lot to offer.”
She continues, talking about staffing, “We’ve had a good stable staff since I’ve been here.”
The need for more qualified workers makes it near impossible for the daycare to operate and accommodate for a mine workers schedule. The daycare has to remain within its licensing parameters. Bauman says, “Extending hours has been talked about and tossed around. Since we are a licensed facility we have to follow our licensing requirements, which require qualified staff. That’s always been a challenge is finding the qualifications we need for staffing. The challenge we are facing right now is not having enough qualified staff to prolong the hours to meet the mines hours. They open at seven, but we still close at five, 5:30, so either way, it’s not really matching the mines hours.”
Finding more staff and then finding the space to run more programs would benefit the daycare, however, they cannot do it alone. Bauman says, “We get a portion of government operating funding, which is minimal support, but we do get some funding from the government. A lot of the staff wages come from the parent fees, which also covers a high portion of the operating costs.”
To enroll a child in the children’s centre is a little steep, like in most of the country. Daycare ain’t cheap. For full-time daycare it’s $600 for a month Monday to Friday for 30 months to 5 years-old. For three days of pre-school a week it’s $150, two days is $100 and out-of-school care is full-time morning and afternoons for $365 or afternoon (after school) for $270.
Though the parents are paying well for the children’s care, all that money gets used up. Bauman continues to talk about the daycare site plans which have been sitting for a year, “The plans were set in motion to find possible funders to have a standalone facility that would strictly be the children’s centre, which could then be used for other community events when we’re not in hours of operation. It is at a standstill, the words been put out there, but we haven’t gotten a lot of feedback from it. It’s still there; it’s just not going anywhere. We’re here at the centre and that’s where we plan to stay unless something changes.”
To cover the rest of their operating costs the Daycare holds two major fundraisers annually. The first is the TRISPS Craft and Bake Sale and the second is the Small Business Christmas party. Bauman says, “Last year we started to do the Small Business Christmas party. We host a dinner and dance. We don’t have a chamber of commerce like we used to, so it’s a way for businesses to still celebrate Christmas with their employees. It was very successful last year and we hope to continue. We have other ones, they come up and we do them, but the main one is the Christmas party.”
So, unless industry contributes or volunteers step-up to raise the funds for the new children’s centre, the plans are just going to sit in Mayor Wren’s office and continue to collect dust. 
Mayor Wren says, “One mine may not be able to support building a daycare centre, but if there’s four mines operating and daycare is an issue for all of them around recruitment and retention of workers, than it may make sense they all work together to solve it.”