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Mother speaks out about out-of-school care cancellation

Jaecie Sand says program is perfect for her 8-year-old daughter; city says enrollments are declining
Jaecie Sand is speaking out about city council’s decision to end out of school programs after this year.

A Dawson Creek mother says she feels blindsided by a decision to cancel the city’s out-of-school care program.

Jaecie Sand is looking for other childcare options for her eight-year-old daughter after learning the city’s out of school care programs will come to an end after this school year.

She’s frustrated by the decision, which she said came with little notice to parents.

“It’s definitely concerning,” she said. “My daughter’s at that age where she’s not able to be home by herself yet. Me and my husband both work hours where we’re at work before her school day starts and after her school day ends.”

Earlier this month, city council passed a resolution to divest from the out of school and summer care programs, which the city subsidizes to the tune of $130,000 a year. The decision was part of council’s 2017 budget discussions, which have highlighted the municipality’s increasingly difficult fiscal position.

City staff say enrollments in the programs have declined. With revenue increases cooling due to a drop in assessment increases, the city will have to cut services or increase taxes, staff say.

Sand received a letter informing parents of council’s decision last week after picking up her daughter. Sixteen children attend the program at Canalta Elementary, she said, while others are enrolled at Tremblay School.  

If the cuts make it into the final draft of the budget, set to be finalized in late April, Sand said she will have to enter the competitive private out of school care market.

“That’s 16 other people who will have to find that care as well,” she said. “It puts us in a bad position: who’s going to watch her for that time? That’ll definitely make it difficult for me to find additional care for my daughter.”

A public meeting on the budget will be held March 6 at 1 p.m. at city hall. On Feb. 20, councillors discussed adding an evening meeting to allow people who work to attend.

Coun. Shaely Wilbur said she had been flooded with messages from families after news of the closure became public.

Anyone unable to attend the afternoon budget meeting should email the city’s finance department, she said, saying an evening consultation session could be held if enough people show interest.

“It’s a change, and change always brings people that are passionate about the issues,” she said. “Hopefully they’re passionate enough to give their input and put it before council, because that’s how you make change.”  

Sand recently moved to Dawson Creek from Calgary, and said that affordable childcare was a factor in her family’s decision to stay in the community.

“It didn’t make sense to go back to the big city and pay ridiculous amounts for childcare when there was an affordable and convenient option available,” she said.

City of Dawson Creek draft 2017 budget report by Jonny Wakefield on Scribd