Babies to Big Kids daycare, which serviced over 70 families, has given a one-month notice about their closure (File photo)

Impending closure of Vic West daycare has over 70 families scrambling

Babies to Big Kids Daycare shutting its doors end of June, ahead of its lease ending

A daycare in Vic West has given the parents of over 70 kids one month to find new childcare options, despite receiving a nine-month notice from their landlord.

Babies to Big Kids Daycare in Vic West shares space with the High Point Community Church on Fullerton Avenue, run by the Salvation Army. The daycare had signed a five-year lease that was due to end in September, but the Salvation Army decided to allot an extra four months to the lease, telling the daycare they had until Jan. 31, 2019.

Despite the extension, the daycare operators decided the facility will close at the end of June.

“We were disappointed and surprised by the closure, and were actually made aware of the announcement by the parents themselves,” said Patricia Mamic, public and government affairs director for Salvation Army B.C. The daycare has always been a good tenant, she added, but the church was struggling financially to maintain the space.

“We are closing because the building we lease our space from would like to have full use of their building with their own programming,” said daycare owner Amber Lamanes in a Facebook post. “While I did expect my families to be angry due to the short notice and to not understand why the notice period could not be longer, I did not expect to experience such a lack of support from other providers in the city.”

The News was unable to clarify that point, as Lamanes declined a request for comment.

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She was adamant in her Facebook post that the closure had nothing to do with daycare licensing problems.

“Not only was daycare licensing completely uninvolved in the decision or my reason to close, they have not been notified yet,” she wrote. “This is because I felt that the first to know of my decision should be my current families and my staff members.”

Meanwhile, parents scrambled to find care options for their children after the closure.

“I’ve received 15 calls since Friday and a couple emails from people looking for spots, which of course, I have none,” said Esquimalt Coun. Meagan Brame, who owns Saxe Point Daycare.

“I had one of my daycare families graduating out, and had booked to go to Babies to Big Kids for out of school care services, but now they’re [out of luck] for that and they’re not sure what they’re gonna do.”

RELATED: Victoria area child-care provider says new funding missed the point

With Babies to Big Kids accepting a wide age range – from 12 months to 12 years – a huge population of families would be affected, Brame noted. “There is a huge demand and this loss has exasperated the community.”

Having worked in childcare for 30 years, she added that the daycare closure speaks to a larger issue. “Many centres are running with less-qualified staff. I commend the government for wanting to lower costs, but they’re creating spaces and creating demand, but not addressing recruitment and retention issues.”

Brame said simply finding staff is a huge barrier, with students from Camosun College’s Early Learning and Care program being hired before graduation.

“You’ve gotta pay for two staff members if you have nine kids,” she said, referencing the one-to-eight ratio required for licensed daycares. “Perhaps it was a financial issue for Babies, but I’m not sure.”

RELATED: Victoria daycare operators concerned over lack of qualified staff

With the childcare options slim, Brame advised parents to be diligent when looking at alternatives.

“You’re gonna have to look for care that’s not licensed, such as neighbours or other centres,” she said. “That doesn’t mean that they’re not good … but you’re going with more strangers than you would prior.”

Lamanes also operates Leap Forward Child Care and Dance School in Langford, but no note of closure has been mentioned for that facility.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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