Greater Victoria School District 61 is still examining different options for childcare studios at École Willows Elementary after neighbours expressed concerns about the proposed facilities.
At the March 11 SD61 board meeting, the District said it is examining potential alternatives to address community concerns and will provide an update after further consultation.
The proposed facilities, brought forward for public consultation in January, included two new fenced off portables built on Willows Elementary School’s field –Musgrave Field.
The facilities would provide eight spaces for children under three-years-old, 20 group child care spaces for kids younger than school-aged and 50 after-school spaces.
A licensee would operate day to day operations and be responsible for maintenance and upkeep.
But neighbours were quick to express concerns at a consultation meeting Jan. 24.
“Kids should not be in portables, it’s just that simple. Making the school grounds into a trailer park is making an eyesore,” neighbour Michael Yakubowich told Black Press for a Feb. 4 article.
An online petition called ‘Stop destruction of Musgrave field AND support childcare!’ says “more childcare spaces are definitely needed in the Oak Bay area, BUT Willow School’s Musgrave field is the WRONG location.”
It says the buildings would destroy a field needed for students and the community and increase traffic in the area.
The ‘solutions’ listed include relocating the project to the sites of the former Uplands Elementary School or Richmond Elementary School.
Over 200 people have signed the petition as of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, but the number is growing steadily.
Lise Johnson, a co-organizer of the petition, emphasized that the movement isn’t about saying no to child care – it’s about considering other options.
“When you remove public green space like that, you never get it back and its a shame to take that step when you don’t need to,” she said. “What we want is for the school district to commit to looking at the alternative sites.”
District staff said they were looking at potential alternatives at Monday’s board meeting, board chair Jordan Watters told Black Press. But the funding has already been approved, specifically for Willows Elementary School.
“We’ve definitely heard the community’s concerns,” she said, adding the District will seek funding for childcare at Richmond, but “there’s no application at this time and [they] couldn’t transfer the [application] at Willows, it’s just not how it works.”
“We certainly do recognize how important green space is.”
Watters said consultations will continue. “Staff are working on some alternatives to mitigate concerns. We’re hearing from the community but we also hear from parents who very badly want quality child care.”
She said an update will be provided before spring break, March 18-29.
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