The Nechako Valley Community Services Society has received a $130,000 grant to refurbish space on the second storey of the Sitka building on Stuart Drive W. for use as a daycare.
“A daycare is needed in the community, and we’d fill it quickly, but no one was willing to take it on,” says Lynda Lewis, Program Manager of the NVCSS Fort St. James office, which is based in the Siska. “When we started four years ago it was going to be the Society that opened a daycare, but we decided this spring to spearhead an attempt to try to get one going with an independent operator.”
A Request for Proposal (RFP) for an operator has now gone out, and Lewis hopes that someone can be found before the third week of October. “The renovations have to start by then, or we lose the grant,” she says. “And we can’t start the work until we have someone hired.”
Although there are other licenced daycares in the Fort which can accommodate up to 8 children each, Lewis says they’re always having to turn people away. And while those daycares can take children aged three years and up, Lewis hopes to attract an operator who is certified to take children from zero to thirty-six months. “It’s a challenge to get early childhood educators here, but we can apply for a variance, which would allow an operator to work towards their certification.” An operator could open with space for eight children, but the facility would be licenced to take up to 28 children in total, and be open five days a week, 12 months of the year..
If an operator can be found before the October deadline, the more than 2,000 square foot space will be completely refurbished into a daycare with a fully outfitted kitchen, bathrooms, communal space as well as separate areas for different age groups, a washer and dryer, an office, and room for parents to store buggies, strollers, and more. The bright, sunny space overlooks Stuart Lake, as well as a playground area that Lewis says could be expanded. “We’d like to create more green space,” says Lewis. “If the project goes ahead then we’d apply for a gaming grant for that next year.”
She points out that this is an excellent opportunity not only for the community, but for someone who would like to operate their own business. “We’ll do all the renovations, so all an operator has to do is bring their own art supplies and food and walk in,” says Lewis. Although the blueprints for the space have already been drawn up, an operator would have the chance to be very involved in the design of the space, the colour scheme, and more.
“We’ll do everything we can to make sure [the operator] is successful,” says Lewis. “They’ll have a lot of support.”