Twelfth Ave. out-of-school childcare to close next month

The childcare for several families at Twelfth Avenue elementary is up in the air after the current provider announced it would not continue offering the service after March 31.

The Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI) has been operating the centre at Twelfth Avenue school for over 20 years. But Tanya Sather, its co-executive director, said in recent years it's become economically unfeasible for the non-profit group due to very low enrolment.

The centre has capacity for 25 children for before and after school care, but in recent years, a "good" year has meant having about 17 children enrolled, Sather said. "It's been a very long time since we've had full enrolment at that centre."

It currently looks after 11 or 12 kids.

"This has been a longstanding issue for Twelfth Avenue," she said. "We made a commitment to stay there as long as we could." In addition to promoting enrolment it didn't raise fees there to recoup rising costs, unlike at some of its other childcare centres.

But it was all to no avail. Sather said while at other centres children would typically enter at age five and stay until they left the school at age 12, that wasn't the case here. "We had a lot of children enroll and then leave so that made it very difficult for budgeting and operational considerations."

BACI provides services and support to people with disabilities. It became involved in operating childcare centres so it could provide inclusive centres giving special needs children first priority on their waitlists.

But while for many years it served children with special needs at Twelfth Avenue, it no longer has any enrolled there.

"For our organization we are very disappointed at having to close the centre. It was an operational issue due to low enrolment and it just was something that could not continue on any more."

With the centre continuing to run a "significant deficit" it couldn't continue until the end of the school year, Sather said. BACI informed its childcare clients at the school before the Christmas break to give them three months to make other arrangements.

BACI is also ending its operation of the out-of-school care at Suncrest elementary, due to a lack of special needs clients currently and none expected anytime soon. In that case, it will continue to run the centre until the end of June and plans to work with the new provider on the transition.

As for Twelfth Avenue, a process is underway to find a new provider with hopes they can take over after BACI leaves, said Doreen George, Burnaby school district's coordinator for community services.

The school surveyed its families and a few more families expressed interest in enrolling in the childcare, George said. The district has contacted local non-profits about taking over the centre, and set a deadline for proposals of Feb. 22.

"It's up to the organizations to decide if it's viable," she said.

A committee, including the school's principal and parent advisory committee chair, will review the proposals and make a recommendation to the school in coming weeks.

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