The Kaatza Child Care and Early Learning Centre has been forced to call it quits, after 37 years of operating in Lake Cowichan.
“It’s just low enrollment. We don’t have the children to necessitate the program,” the centre’s head supervisor Wendy Fetchko said.
To remain open, the centre would have to incur a $4,000 per month loss.
Currently, only 14 children are enrolled at the centre full and part-time; five to six children short of breaking even.
One of the potential straws that broke the centre’s back has been a recent announcement that eligibility for child care subsidies will change, with those eligible for a subsidy being bumped down to households earning $21,480 or less per year, from the current $33,000.
“That’s a huge part of it,” Kaatza board chair Jennifer Pelton said, of reasons for the centre’s closure.
“The change in funding subsidies, cutbacks in grants for non-profits, declined enrolment – which is the effect of economic conditions – and the introduction of full-day Kindergarten.”
“We lost seven children to full day Kindergarten,” Fetchko said.
Providing parents with one month’s notice, the centre is officially closing its doors for the final time, October 14.
After having worked at the Kaatza Child Care Centre for 17 years, Fetchko plans on staying in Lake Cowichan, but finding employment in Duncan.
Another employee is starting up a two-kid child care service in their home.
As for the centre’s other employees, who have worked there for up to 25 years, the closure means unemployment.
So far, two employees have been laid off, with the final four full-time layoffs to take place October 14.
As for the 14 kids currently enrolled, Fetchko said that many of their parents have found alternative child care services in town, thanks to a couple of centres opening up in town.
“It’s a huge loss to the town,” Fetchko said, of the closure.
“What the parents have lost is a choice.”
The choice has been with parents having early learning childhood educators look after and teach their children during the day.
It’s been not just a form of baby-sitting during the day, but of early learning as well.
With the Kaatza Child Care and Early Learning Centre closing down in October, it will take more than an increase in enrollment for it to re-open.
The centre must sell off its assets to cover losses, so to start up again, Fetchko said, “They’d have to start from scratch.”
Looking back, Fetchko said that it’s been thanks to the community that the centre has been able to stay open for as long as it has been.
“It’s been touching, how the community has rallied with all of our struggles,” she said.
Unfortunately, it would have been nearly impossible for any amount of rallying to offset the deficit suffered as a result of the recent enrollment slump.
With notes by Krista Siefken