Grace Keeling and her husband moved to Morden two years ago for employment reasons. In that time, she has had a third child. Her oldest child is in kindergarten and Keeling has learned her child will no longer be eligible for daycare. Last fall, Pembina Valley Childcare Centre (PVCC) announced a shift in services due to limited spaces and increased need due to changes in funding. (Read more in the article below.)
Keeling, who has joined the PVCC board explained.
"The funding aged out the five-year-olds, so all the daycares locally had to respond by capping out the eligible age groups, so they're only taking care of four and under, basically. PVCC, in particular, has given some time for the parents to transition kids that are 5, they can stay over the summer, but after that come September, we're kind of off on our own."
Keeling has also agreed to cochair the Maple Leaf Elementary Parent Advisory Council after several parents had their children transition to middle school, leaving many vacant positions. She learned quickly the council needed a better sense of how to best serve.
"I knew that there were a couple things parents had problems with their concerns with. One of them was childcare, but the second thing was, what do parents even want in the community? Not just at Maple Leaf, but just generally and then what other things they want to see in programming?"
So, the Maple Leaf PAC put out a survey to gather some information, knowing the responses from the 480-student population can be lower than desired.
"From that, the survey we got not too many responses, only about 30 people responded, but enough data for us to kind of figure out what's going on."
Keeling also is connected to the Morden Family Resource Centre and spent time gathering information about attempts made in the past to best address this same concern. She learned about something done in Winkler a few years ago and with that information she kept going.
"I reached out to a few people in the community like this is a problem that's going on. Is there some sort of city programming or something that can help work on or collaborate with it? Not that I want to run it, it's just that I don't know what's in the community."
A conversation was happening during Morden Interagency meetings as this issue had come up there as well and once Keeling was connected to this group, she was place on a newly formed subcommittee, Morden After School Aged Programming, tasked at address the childcare need in Morden, especially because of the 40 children losing their childcare in September.
Morden After School Aged Programming created another community survey to gather information directly related to this issue and posted it at the beginning of January on a city social media page.
"Responses exploded. I think it went up to 160 responses. (At the time of the interview.) We're leaving it open until the end of January and then following the close of that survey, we're going to take the results, and bring it back to the group, and then disseminate it and see what are the needs right now and then build action plans based on that and work on possibly bringing in programming to the schools because the schools are open to offering the spaces, but they're more looking for other people to run it."
There are parties interested in facilitating this programming, but a coordinator is needed as the desire is to have a program in Maple Leaf, Minnewasta, and École Discovery Trails Schools.
Other concerns are making sure the programming takes place at the schools to avoid having to transport children to another location and affordability. Due to short timelines, the programming will be out of pocket, unless another solution is found before it begins, hopefully in September.
The survey is open until the end of January and results will be looked at in February by the committee, who will then begin to draw up an action plan. Email Mordenschoolagedcare@gmail.com if you have any questions or to get involved.