Monday January 17, 2022 | COLWOOD, BC
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
Deep in the time of the ongoing COVID pandemic a transformation happened at the Juan de Fuca Rec Centre in Colwood. The old curling rink lounge was renovated and repurposed into a child care centre.
The project was overseen by the West Shore Parks and Recreation (WSPR) which owns the Juan de Fuca Rec Centre.
WSPR is owned by five municipalities: Langford, Colwood, Highlands, Metchosin and View Royal.
The JDF Childcare Centre together with arena upgrades were done during the pandemic and officially announced on November 29, 2021.
“These new upgrades will provide critical childcare spaces for our growing community and much needed renovations to the JDF Arena that will benefit our many user organizations and the public,” said WSPR Board Chair Kyara Kahakauwila in the original news release.
The on-site official opening at the JDF Child Care Centre was held on December 6, including a ribbon-cutting.
That well-attended event featured speeches by local Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean (Minister of Child and Family Development), Minister of State for Child Care Katrina Chen, and Colwood Mayor Rob Martin — to much applause.
After the speeches, a tour of the centre was led by child care centre operators and rec centre staff, along with Minister of State Chen, Colwood Mayor Martin and several Colwood councillors.
Accolades from Child and Family Development Minister:
“Well done, West Shore Parks and Recreation,” said Minister Dean, at the start of her remarks at the podium. She thanked Mayor Martin “and everybody in the community” for putting together the centre and supporting local good jobs and local businesses.
Dean commended her colleague Chen for her passion in pulling together new spaces for inclusive, good quality affordable child care for young children and school-age kids across the province.
Dean pointed out that families in the west shore often need to commute to child care before heading to work. Having a child care centre in the west shore reduces the commute for many families, said Dean. Families, environment and businesses benefit by this convenience.
This location for the child care centre “can work around parents’ routines” as it’s closer to home and can also facilities use of the recreational programming at the rec centre which is also close to the transit hub along Island Highway (Hwy 14), explained Dean.
“We really support co-locating child care spaces like this,” said Dean, as it supports building community capacity. “We know that’s what we need to be doing out here in the west shore.”
“I’m honoured that our ministry had a role in bringing this together,” said Dean, who was first elected in 2017 (serving as Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity from 2017 to 2020 before becoming Minister of Child and Family Development in 2020).
The new spaces are part of the province’s Child Care BC plan, contributing to the government’s vision of affordable, good quality and accessible child care spaces.
“Seeing the spaces here as part of a public asset means they’re going to be really good for the community,” said Dean. “We know that they’ll be really well stewarded, supported and maintained to support families for generations to come.”
Minister of State for Child Care:
Minister of State for Child Care Katrina Chen started in that role in 2017. As a single parent and immigrant she is keen to see child care services developed in the province and “it’s very personal for me,” she said in her opening remarks at the podium on December 6.
She said she had “always wondered why the government had not put child care as a top priority” (prior to the Horgan government that took the lead starting in 2017).
Child care is “good for the kids’ early learning years, for families to return to work, and it’s really good for our economy,” said Chen.
“In the past few years — especially going through the pandemic and the extreme weather events — people are really starting to pay attention to how child care is an important part of our economic recovery and family well-being,” said Chen.
Chen said it’s exciting how community, local government and province can work together to produce new projects like the JDF Child Care Centre. It brings critical services to families. She lauded the ability of communities to learn how they could partner with the provincial government and the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) for funding to make this sort of centre happen utilizing current existing public assets.
The nearly 100 spaces for children at the JDF Child Care Centre will serve kids and families for years to come. She noted the hard work of early childhood educators (ECE’s) working with children age 3 to 5 years, who are a key part of the success of any child care centre.
“We cannot do this without parents being able to afford high-quality inclusive child care,” said Chen. She noted that JDF Child Care Centre will be available to under served families and children with additional needs.
Colwood’s Mayor impressed and pleased:
City of Colwood Mayor Rob Martin opened his remarks on December 6 by saying he was representing the five municipalities that own WSPR. He called the collaboration of municipalities exciting, in light of the ever-present public pondering of amalgamation of the 13 municipalities in the Greater Victoria capital region.
Cost-savings and looking at opportunities for collaboration have found a shining example in the JDF Child Care Centre launch. Mayor Rob Martin called WSPR “an amazing institution” that demonstrates “how municipalities can work together and really prosper and support the general community”.
As a former board chair of WSPR for four years, Martin saw the “influence that this organization has” and said he felt “so honoured” to be there as part of the December 6 ribbon-cutting event to mark the special occasion and share thoughts about WSPR.
“West Shore Parks and Rec is more than just this building. When you drive by this building it’s really easy to see the pool and the one skating rink and think that’s what West Shore Parks and Rec is,” said Martin.
But he said that driving around reveals the lower fields and all the other amenities including forest around the property, the land that slopes down to playing fields, a golf course, a second arena (The Q Centre), lawn bowling, tennis, volleyball, lacrosse, a BMX track, the veladrome, playgrounds, picnic shelters, baseball diamond, WildPlay, and a walking trail including Garry Oak meadows. “It’s an amazing facility,” Martin concluded.
Repairing WSPR during the pandemic:
“A lot of the community has missed it because of the pandemic,” said Mayor Martin. It’s been a couple of years that “staff have really had to step up and demonstrate leadership”, and he’s proud of all of them.
“All of the municipalities are sincerely thankful and appreciative of the hard work that they’ve done,” said Colwood’s mayor.
Martin remarked on the shift from previous uses of the building as being “a difficult decision”. He called it a re-purposing of underutilized space for greater use. Staff recognized the opportunity to renovate the upper level of JDF Rec.
“It was in need of repair, it was non-accessible, and the majority of space was occupied by a dated and under-used curling rink lounge that we no longer required,” said Martin.
“The existing West Shore Parks and Rec child care program had been operating and had a wait list for several years. There continued to be a dire need within the community for new child care spaces,” said Martin.
“Successful grant applications allowed funding to be secured and renovation began on these spaces.” Having one owner and trying to get things done is one thing. “Having five municipal owners trying to tell you what to do is almost impossible, and staff have done a fantastic job,” said Colwood’s mayor.
“Staff continue to look for creative ways to create programming and activities. The vision for the child care centre became a reality, through the successful grant application,” said Martin.
In February 2021 there were 24 spots at the child care centre, and there were over 40 applicants, said Martin. This demonstrated the need.
“And it’s not being fulfilled even as we speak. We continue to need to add more and more spaces. But without the support and vision of the province and understanding that they need to look into investing into communities like ours, we’re not going to achieve these things,” said Martin.
Registration information for the JDF Child Care Centre is available online for Licenced Daycare, 10-Month Preschool Programs, and Afterschool Care.
Martin offered a “very special thank you to the provincial government for the leadership and understanding what we needed as a community”, adding that it’s important for long-term success.
“Children and youth are the key to our success moving forward. If we don’t choose to invest into them, we’re not going to be successful as a community or as a society,” Martin said with enthusiasm and conviction. “When we choose to invest in young people we’re choosing to be successful in the future.”
Construction during the pandemic:
Construction of the child care centre happened through the summer of 2021, funded in large part by a BC Government grant of $3.9 million from the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the UBCM.
Renovations were completed on the upper JDF Recreation Centre to build the new JDF Childcare Centre, including an outdoor play area at the front of the arena section of the building.
The in-person official opening was held on December 6. That well-attended event featured speeches by local Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean (who is Minister of Child and Family Development), Minister of State for Child Care Katrina Chen, and Colwood Mayor Rob Martin.A tour of the centre was led by child care centre operators and rec centre staff, along with Minister of State Chen, Colwood Mayor Martin and several Colwood councillors.
Also addressing the crowd of about 30 people in the main meeting room was Geoff Welham who itemized that the play philosophy of learning is delivered at the child care centre. He was pleased to outlined that four full time, 10 part-time and 10 new auxiliary staffing positions were created as part of launching the centre.
Active child care was in session during the tour. Everyone wore masks for pandemic public health protocols.
Included in the new childcare space are 24 new full-time daycare and 30 new preschool spaces (for children 30 months to 5 years) and 40 new after-school care spaces. Additional amenities specific to childcare licensing include a new outdoor play park, a commercial kitchen, fully accessible washroom facilities, and upgrades to the existing elevator.
Playroom and learning areas feature wood-worked child-care facility furniture, shelving and cloakroom in a natural wood-finish colour theme. The rationale was that it’s more calming that the bold bright colours that have been standard in child care facilities for the last few decades. It was also the preferred finishing process by the local Mill Bay work working supplier. Costs were likely minimized by not having to paint things in different colours.
A ground-level self-contained children’s-equipment playground was constructed within the parking lot area of the JDF Rec Centre. It was constructed for use during the child care day. The outdoor stairwell down from the second floor even has stairs and handrails sized for young children.
Safety and accessibility of the new spaces. Emergency lighting and automated doors are part of the installments. Upgrades to the washrooms were done, as well as to the old elevator for families that require extra support to get to the second floor of the building. There were also lots of upgrades to heating efficiency to heat rooms and cool them when needed.
“The construction contractor designed and built exactly what we wanted and what the community needed,” said Graham. VDA Architecture was the design team consultant firm. Construction was led by Heatherbrae Builders.
Rooms around the renovated area are given names of the various municipalities. A large meeting room (where the speeches were held) can be divided into two smaller rooms, as usage demands.
NEWS: Child care scramble for a week highlights inequities (December 30, 2021)
===== ABOUT THE WRITER:
Mary P Brooke is the editor and publisher of Island Social Trends. She has long supported the cause of women’s and family rights in society, as part of furthering a societal understanding of social ecology and fostering a healthier social environment for women and families.
Mary has raised her own family of four children, now grown, while also running her own business.
Ms Brooke holds a B.Sc. in nutrition and community education and a Certificate in Public Relations, as well as a certificate in digital marketing.