It’s been a busy few weeks in the west wing of Silverthorne Elementary now that the Beanstalk Childcare Centre has moved into a fully-renovated space thanks to a $1.5 million provincial government grant.
The renovations are sufficient to accommodate 48 licensed spaces for before and after school care in addition to during the day itself.
“Our licence was effective Sept. 3 with services starting Sept. 7,” said Beanstalk administrator Amanda Tobin of the launch of the new space.
“The classrooms look amazing, are very functional and we have had great reviews from children, families and staff.”
The number of children already enrolled speaks to the need for the facility, she added.
“Before and after school care is in place and open. We have one spot left in our after school care program and three spots in morning care,” Tobin said.
Before school care starts at 7:30 a.m. and after school care runs until 5:30 p.m., making for a full day.
“These services were desperately needed for our community and it was great to be able to accommodate the wait list.”
The 48 licenses spaces are separated into specific categories as such:
– 8 in multiage (all day attendance)
– 16 in daycare (again all day attendance)
– 24 in before and after school care (24 before school and 24 after school)
Moving into Silverthorne continues an expansion of Beanstalk’s licensed spaces. A grant application in 2015 resulted in a stand-alone facility on 11th St. a year later followed by taking space at St. Clements Anglican Church next door.
Discussions about more space began in 2018 with School District 54 as it grappled with lower enrolments resulting in empty classroom areas at Silverthorne.
And that resulted in successfully getting the $1.5 million grant from the provincial children and family development ministry. It was announced last year.
School District 54 superintendent Mike McDiarmid said the move by Beanstalk into Silverthorne came from a series of complementary objectives.
One was the school having space available because of the enrolment decline.
“Our capacity issue has now been solved,” McDiarmid said of the space now being full utilized at Silverthorne. “Having that grant come through was good to see.”
But it also coincided with the decision by the school board to shuffle the grade offerings at Silverthorne and Twain Sullivan so that Silverthorne became a K-3 school exclusively and Twain Sullivan a 4-7 school exclusively.
“With Beanstalk, now we have a full early learning centre,” McDiarmid said of the ages and levels contained in Silverthorne.
The Beanstalk Childcare Centre can trace its history back more than two decades when it was a parent participation preschool, then coming under the wing of Houston Community Services in the early 1990s.
With the addition of the Silverthorne space, Beanstalk now has 146 licensed spaces.
“Currently we are employing about 25 people, but are still looking for two more. There is a province-wide shortage of certified Early Childhood Education staff and the Bulkley Valley is no exception,” said Tobin.