Understanding and responding to the needs of the community is one of the most important functions of the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK). A well-defined and pressing need for families throughout the RDCK is access to childcare services. While childcare is not typically within the mandate for a local government like the RDCK, this was recognized as a significant issue for residents. Beginning in 2018, the RDCK stepped in to facilitate and collaborate with community partners, the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) and the province to help develop new childcare spaces in our region.
In January of 2021, the RDCK, Castlegar and District Recreation Commission, and Kootenay Family Place (KFP), with funding support from CBT, successfully applied to the province’s Childcare BC New Spaces Fund to support a brand new, licensed space in Castlegar. The result is the Castlegar and District Kids’ Club, a new facility located at the Castlegar and District Community Complex and run by KFP, which officially opened its doors, January 4, 2022.
“Having access to licensed quality care is essential to improving outcomes for the residents of Castlegar and surrounding communities,” said Sally Bojechko, co-executive director, Kootenay Family Place. “As childcare waitlist numbers have increased over the past several years, families have struggled to find care options that will support them in being able to fulfill both their professional and personal goals. Kootenay Family Place and the Castlegar and District Recreation Commission have established a collaborative relationship with the common goal of increasing accessibility to quality early learning programs for families’ diverse needs in our community.”
The RDCK’s involvement in the development of local child care began in early 2018, with the RDCK Board directing staff to evaluate the feasibility of locating child care facilities within underutilized community hall spaces in Electoral Area I. The feasibility study, funded by the RDCK and CBT and completed by Selkirk College’s Rural Development Institute indicated a high demand for childcare spaces in the Nelson-Castlegar corridor and significant barriers for families in accessing affordable and convenient child care spaces.
Late in 2018, elected officials in the Castlegar area were approached by KFP to partner on a potential new childcare facility at the Castlegar and District Community Complex. Having familiarity with KFP, previously working on the Summer at the Skatepark program for 11 years, the Castlegar and District Recreation Commission decided to expand the partnership to fill a much needed void in the community. This was followed by a successful application to the Childcare BC New Spaces Fund.
Having received $2 million in funding from the Childcare BC New Spaces Fund, the construction of the new 2,000 sq. ft. facility at the Castlegar and District Community Complex is now complete and the facility has opened part-time, with the goal of eventually providing 30 new child care spaces for local families, as well as 20 licensed pre-school and after school spaces.
“Castlegar and District Kid’s Club will house a morning preschool program for children ages 2.5-5 years, in addition to providing after school care, for children ages 5-12 years, in the afternoons,” said Bojechko. “These programs will be offered annually through Kootenay Family Place from September through June, with the Castlegar and District Community Complex also having access to the facility for programming and school break camps.”