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Beaver Valley families to benefit from new child care spaces

“We’ve been working on this for three years,” explains Fruitvale Mayor Steve Morissette.
The former Beaver Valley Middle School. Plans are rolling along to tear down the old school and build affordable housing units and a child care centre. Photo: Times file

Confirmation that 37 new child care spaces will be coming to the Village of Fruitvale is a welcome result following years of planning by advocates and elected officials working toward a common goal — helping families with growing needs in the midst of what is locally dubbed a “child care desert.”

“We’ve been working on this for three years,” Fruitvale Mayor Steve Morissette told the Trail Times, mentioning a respective study identified the Beaver Valley as a “child care desert.”

“When we built our master plan for the former Beaver Valley Middle School, we earmarked an area at the front of the property for a potential child care centre,” he explained. “We applied over a year ago to the provincial government for funding to build a child care centre.”

Morissette said the village was unsuccessful in the first intake due to limited funding, but they were encouraged to reapply as more money became available, leading to this successful application.

“This will be a standalone building,” he clarified. “And a key piece along with the coming 31-unit affordable housing complex in the first phase of our Beaver Valley Middle School land redevelopment plan.”

The announcement of 37 new child care spaces being funded for the upcoming Beaver Valley Child Care Centre — 12 infant-toddler seats and 25 toddler to kindergarten seats — came Tuesday. The B.C. government said 45 new child care spaces in the Kootenays, 37 in Fruitvale and eight in Kaslo, mean that more parents will be able to pursue work, school and other opportunities while knowing their children are cared for by licensed child care providers.

“As a former early childhood educator myself, I know how important accessible and affordable child care options are to parents,” said Minister Katrine Conroy, MLA for Kootenay West. “Families with young children face so many challenges, particularly as we navigate through the late stages of the pandemic. These new spaces in the Kootenays will make it easier for parents to find high-quality care that fits in their budget.”

Funding comes from the province, with contributions from the federal government and Columbia Basin Trust (Trust).

In addition to these child care locations, 544 new spaces have been funded in the Kootenay region since the launch of ChildCareBC in July 2018.

“People in the Columbia Basin have said that safe and affordable child care is important, and these projects are helping meet this need in small communities, where child care can be particularly hard to find,” said Johnny Strilaeff, Trust president and CEO.

“These new spaces will enable parents to work or dedicate themselves to other goals, helping local businesses and the well-being of the community. We thank the province for its support and all the organizations involved for their efforts.”

Since 2018, the Province has invested $2.7 billion in ChildCareBC, including funding more than 26,000 new licensed child care spaces through the New Spaces Fund and other space-creation programs.

The intake for the 2021-22 ChildCareBC New Spaces Fund opened on Sept. 13, 2021, and closed on Nov. 16, 2021. Applications were evaluated against criteria set out in the ChildCareBC New Spaces Fund guidelines to align with provincial priorities and with federal direction outlined in the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care agreement to focus on spaces that are run by public and non-profit institutions.

Sheri Regnier

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