Ucluelet Children Centre’s office manager Kathy de Vries and Ucluelet Co-op general manager Laurie Gehrke shake hands in front of the soon-to-be infant toddler daycare. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Ucluelet Children Centre’s office manager Kathy de Vries and Ucluelet Co-op general manager Laurie Gehrke shake hands in front of the soon-to-be infant toddler daycare. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Ucluelet Co-op partners with child care society to open new infant/toddler space

“It’s an opportunity for the entire community to benefit. It starts to take some of the pressure off”

Ucluelet is getting a much needed home for a permanent infant and toddler daycare centre.

At the end of 2021, the Ucluelet Co-op purchased the building that formerly housed the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce after the Chamber opted to shift operations to a virtual platform. Co-op took possession of the building in March 2022, and is leasing it to the Ucluelet and Area Child Care Society “for an extremely affordable rate”, according to Ucluelet Co-op general manager Laurie Gehrke.

Kathy de Vries, office manager of the Ucluelet Children’s Centre, says the new daycare will open up a total of nine spaces for babies and toddlers under three. Ucluelet Co-op staff will get priority for four of those spaces.

“It’s an opportunity for the entire community to benefit. It starts to take some of the pressure off,” said de Vries, who is the manager on the new daycare license.

The Ucluelet Children’s Centre currently has 66 families on their roster and a wait-list of 48. It does not have the capacity to offer care to infants and toddlers. A 2019 child care report from the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District shows there are a total of 375 children 0-4 years living on the West Coast with only 36 spaces for infants/toddlers child care. The number one theme garnered from the West Coast parent survey is that infant/toddler care is needed.

“The vision of the Co-op is to serve the West Coast communities,” Gehrke told the Westerly News during a visit to the new centre at 1604 Peninsula Road.

de Vries says investment in staffing solutions are in the works: an Infant Toddler Educator is secured and Ucluelet is on the practicum list for Sprott Shaw College graduates of the Early Childhood Education(ECE) Diploma Program.

“(The course) is being funded through the federal government to increase the number of ECE’s in the country as we create this childcare policy in the country,” she notes.

The Ucluelet and Area Child Care Society is aiming to open the new infant and toddler daycare centre in late September. Meanwhile, they’re stretching a $27,000 grant from the ChildcareBC New Spaces to spruce up the building.

“(MLA) Josie (Osborne) called to congratulate us, that was really exciting,” said de Vries.

Renovation plans include installing a diaper change area with window, creating a separate admin office, and closing off the front entrance so there will be no Peninsula Road access. The new entrance will be at the side and the kids outdoor play area will be at the back of the building adjacent to the Ucluelet Co-op parking lot.

“It has taken a longtime to get to where it is now,” said Gehrke, adding that the initiative is a true partnership between the Ucluelet Co-op and the Ucluelet and Area Daycare Society.

RELATED: Province announces new daycare facility for Tofino



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

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