Moving a business to a new location is a daunting task at any time, let alone the middle of pandemic.
That is what Tracey McCullough, her husband Brent, and their four children, Kaylee, Connor, Lauren and Jordan did as In the Garden Childcare Centre moved into the former Royal Canadian Legion building on Mills Road in North Saanich from their old location near Allegro Performing Arts from which it had sublet space. Allegro leases the former Sansbury Elementary School from School District 63 and the daycare previously used the school’s former gymnasium and a portable.
McCullough had decided to make the move in the fall of 2019, but then the pandemic hit, changing plans, but also creating opportunities along the way.
“Me and my husband and my kids did most of the [renovation] work [at the new location] ourselves,” she said. “We have four kids — two of them are university students who had to come home because their universities closed, so we did have extra family help to paint and re-do the floor, that kind of stuff. But we did not have any staff who could help pack up and move everything.”
COVID-19 also changed the calculus of the improvements. “We just had to be very careful with what we did spend money on,” she said. “We did most of the work ourselves with our children and used most of the equipment and supplies we already had. There are still more improvements we want to make but will wait and see what the future has in store before we commit to the extra expense.”
The new space marks a major step up from the business’ old digs. Whereas the previous location had 16 spaces for children aged 3 to 5, the new location offers space for 24. It also offers 12 infant spaces, where none had been available at the old location.
In other words, the new space has allowed the company to grow into a bigger, brighter space, and McCullough expects the business to be at that location for the long term.
But for all of the positive developments in the presence, the prospect of a second COVID-19 wave looms large.
“Right now, we are quite comfortable, but let’s say September hits and we have a second wave, the government has already told us that they are pulling that funding [allowing operations at lower capacity] by Sept. 1 and they expect us to be running full capacity by Sept. 1.”
McCullough said funding has allowed the business to operate at reduced capacity, but its pending loss means that the business would have to have full enrolment, creating additional choices and quandaries.
“If parents choose to stay home with their children, I don’t charge them daycare fees, but I hold a spot for them for September,” said McCullough. “For parents, if their children get sick, and they have to keep their children home, I’m not going to charge for those days. I’m only charging for the care, for the time that their children are actually at the centre and that funding makes that possible.”
Come September though, if parents want childcare, they have to pay for their daycare spot, whether their child is there or not, she said.
This said, McCullough feels comfortable about the long-term prospects for her business. “There will always be a need for child care,” she said.
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