School child-cen­tre rent hikes de­layed

Times Colonist - - The Capital - JEFF BELL

A large turnout of con­cerned par­ents and child-care staff at a bud­get meet­ing prompted the Greater Vic­to­ria school board to hold off on the pos­si­ble dou­bling or tripling of rent for child-care cen­tres at dis­trict schools, and launch a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion process.

“We had a whole room­ful of peo­ple in there and it was good for trustees to get the first-hand point of view from all th­ese peo­ple about what their is­sues are,” said school board vice-chair­man Tom Fer­ris. “And I think what was ev­i­dent was that not ev­ery­body’s is­sue is the same.”

The school dis­trict still has to do some­thing about the cen­tres, he said. “You can’t go five or six years with­out in­creas­ing your fees and ex­pect to cover the costs of op­er­at­ing fa­cil­i­ties.”

Katy Rose, pres­i­dent of the Straw­berry Vale Co-op­er­a­tive Pre-School, was at the Wed­nes­day night meet­ing and said it was a good feel­ing to be lis­tened to.

“It was a pretty ex­cit­ing meet­ing to at­tend and it was a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion by the trustees to de­lay the rental in­creases,” she said. “It felt like a pretty big vic­tory and just a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence of the com­mu­nity com­ing out and stand­ing up for some­thing, and re­ally pulling to­gether to make a change hap­pen.”

Fer­ris said par­ents clearly have wor­ries. “I’m a grand­par­ent so I know what the is­sues are, try­ing to take care of a child and also be close to schools.”

The board will be seek­ing pub­lic in­put, Fer­ris said, with su­per­in­ten­dent Piet Langstraat ex­pected to give di­rec­tion when trustees meet next on Mon­day.

A de­ci­sion doesn’t have to be made right away, he said. “I don’t think we’re in a big hurry. Our pri­mary ob­jec­tive would be to be able to in­form users of what their ex­pec­ta­tions can be.”

Rose said she an­tic­i­pates the con­sul­ta­tion will take time, and will be sign­ing chil­dren up for the next school year at cur­rent rates.

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