‘We’re scrambling’: daycare squeezed out by classroom crunch seeks new home

Abbotsford school district not renewing leases with at least four programs

The managers of a local daycare say they are scrambling to find a new location after recently learning they must leave their longtime home in less than two months.

Country Meadows Daycare has operated in a portable classroom on the Auguston Traditional Elementary campus for the last four years after moving from a location inside the school. They are licensed for a total of 17 children in both their daycare and before and after school programs.

Nadine Davis, who manages the daycare, said she was called in for what she thought was a routine annual meeting with district officials last Wednesday. Expecting a discussion about terms and rates for the daycare’s annual lease, Davis was told the lease would not be renewed. They have to move out by July 15.

Country Meadows is one of four programs in the district being moved out to make room for more class space.

Little Dreamers at Harry Sayers Elementary, Fraser Valley Montessori at Margaret Stenersen Elementary, and Fraser Valley Montessori at Sandy Hill Elementary have all received similar notices.

A program at Prince Charles Elementary may also have its lease cancelled, with a final decision expected from the district soon.

“I was stunned and shocked,” Davis said. “We had no inkling of a clue; there was no rumour; there was nothing. I basically stood there like… ‘OK’ – I didn’t even have words.”

She was told the decision was not personal but necessary for the district, as it moves to comply with new class composition rules resulting from a Supreme Court of Canada ruling. Abbotsford School District is currently working to create 35 new classrooms to accommodate new classes required to lower class sizes and ratios of special needs students.

Country Meadows board chair Jennifer Clarke said it will be virtually impossible for the daycare to remain in Auguston due to a lack of available rental space.

“You’re talking about a small community like Auguston, where our daycares are already limited and the community is only expanding,” she said. “So now you’re taking out a major resource and a major partner of the community for the past 16 years.”

She said the daycare plays an important role in Auguston’s tight-knit community and acts as a second home to many.

“We have an excellent daycare facility here with amazing staff and it’s going to be such a tragedy to have this leave the community,” she said.

Clarke has been looking for a new location, along with her fellow board members, but she said the options are very limited. She said they may have to relocate to another neighbourhood in Abbotsford where they would be serving a different set of families.

Clarke said the nonprofit corporation that runs the daycare is in debt and if it cannot find a new home and folds, the board members at the time the debt was incurred will have to pay it out-of-pocket.

When the daycare was moved from inside Auguston Traditional to the portable and from Fraser Valley College before that, there was a six-month warning, Davis said.

“It takes about six months to do a proper transition… get all your licensing and your funding and [give] your parents notice,” Davis said.

“We’re scrambling,” Clarke said. “Our heads are still reeling.”

The district’s secretary treasurer, Ray Velestuk, said not renewing leases for daycares that serve school communities was not the first option considered. He said the process of looking at projected enrolment, staffing and space was to blame for short two-month notice given to Country Meadows and others.

When asked why leasers were not informed that ending their leases was being considered, Velestuk said the district had been open about the process through their public board meetings.