Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools staff will develop a plan to test the waters of before- and after-school care for school-aged children.
After previously requesting a feasibility report, trustees at the Sept. 28 board meeting unanimously approved a pilot project offering care to children over five years, in time for the start of the 2023-24 school year. School districts already offering programs were consulted, noted a staff report, and as the district is moving out of the COVID-19 pandemic, “expanding the district’s mandate to include … care broadly” is not recommended.
Cost and staffing are among considerations for the district, noted a staff report. Should education assistants be used, $24 per day would need to be charged in order to “break even,” said the report, while it would be $22.50 a day if adults with experience working with youths provide the care. The hope is that responsible adults further their training to become education assistants, said Mark Walsh, district secretary-treasurer, in an e-mail to the News Bulletin.
At last month’s business committee meeting, Charlene McKay, board chairperson, wondered if a combination of EAs and responsible adults could be considered, and Walsh said the district’s partners will be consulted.
“In one district it’s responsible adults only on split shifts or again, the idea of being able to extend EA hours,” said Walsh. “Is there a school that that’s going to work and are we going to be able to actually give them 40-hour days versus 35 hours,” said Walsh. “I don’t think those issues are going to be insurmountable. Of course, we need to talk to the union … if I’m an EA and I’m doing this job, do I get paid at the EA rate or the responsible adult rate despite the difference in responsibilities?”
There are currently 723 child care spaces across the district, with 11 providers with 26 licences at 23 sites, according to the report. Walsh said service is provided at a “mix” of facilities, with some sharing spaces with schools and some in portables. Child care is expected to be provided this year at Forest Park, Chase River and Ladysmith Primary schools, but Walsh said the new pilot project isn’t related. It will likely be offered at a site with no current external provider and where space is available, he said.
Forest Park school’s facility will be the first to open, said Walsh, but there is no specific timeline, due to construction and licensing.
Staff will present the finalized plan to the board before it is implemented.