Burnaby school officials are working to create a symbiotic relationship between a new child-care centre and the district's early childhood educator (ECE) training program.
The old Marian High School site at 7650 Sapperton Ave. in East Burnaby is currently a mostly empty school.
Until recently the school had been leased to Carver Christian High School, a partnership between two private schools that have since built new campuses elsewhere.
The district’s new plans for the site are part of a $35.7-million plan unveiled in October to create 773 child care spaces at local schools.
Marian will house as many as 103 new spaces: 24 for infants and toddlers, 25 for three- to five-year-olds, 24 for kindergarten and Grade 1 students, and 30 for kids in Grades 2 to 7.
The facility, which will be run by a non-profit service provider contracted by the district, would act as a child-care hub for families at Armstrong Elementary, Second Street Community School and Seaforth Elementary.
What will make the centre unique is that it will also act as a “training lab” for aspiring child-care workers in the district’s community and continuing education ECE program, which has already moved into the building.
“The on-site child-care setting, in conjunction with the Burnaby Community and Continuing Education ECE Program, will be an example of a collaborative approach in providing child-care in the community,” states a request for proposal put out by the district last week for potential service care providers to run the child-care program.
One of the major challenges to creating more child-care at local schools is a shortage of qualified ECE workers, according to the district’s child-care plan.
The Marian project aims to overcome that.
The district already has a well-respected ECE training program, according to director of instruction Kevin Brandt.
Moving it to the Marian site this past September has allowed it to double the number of seats.
Besides training more workers, however, the Marian plan will also see ECE students get hands-on experience at the onsite child-care centre under the mentorship of experienced early childhood educators working there.
“It’s going to be perfect because we’re going to have the facility at the site where we’re doing the course work, so there’s an opportunity on an ongoing basis to support and look at best practices and all those things,” Brandt said.
The deadline for submissions from potential child-care providers is Feb. 14.
Secretary-treasurer Russell Horswill said the contract between the chosen service provider and the district will be unique.
“It is a different relationship than all of our other agreements that we have. We are definitely looking for an operator that will work with us,” he said.
Among the goals listed in the RFP is the creation of a “supportive and inspirational work environment that will reassure living wages for ECE program educators.”
Pending the timeframe for approval and construction, the district said it could have the Marian child-care centre up and running by the summer, according to the project definition report on child care in the district.