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B.C. launches program to bring more child-care spaces into schools

Children's backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck Children's backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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British Columbia is launching a two-year pilot program to integrate before- and after-school child care into classrooms and other school spaces.

The province says the program will spare parents and guardians the time, money and stress of shuttling children between school and daycare facilities.

The program, announced Tuesday, will launch this fall in three school districts, namely Chilliwack, Nanaimo-Ladysmith and Nechako Lakes.

"As a parent, I know how hard it can be to balance work and school hours. It's hard to find care for your child before school starts or after the bell rings at the end of the day," B.C. Premier David Eby said in a statement.

"We're partnering with three school districts to provide care on school grounds so children benefit from familiar faces and places throughout the day and families can count on one pickup and drop-off location."

The province says school support staff and early childhood educators will provide the before- and after-school care for students at their schools.

The Ministry of Education and Child Care is funding the pilot with more than $2 million over two years, creating an estimated 180 new, affordable child-care spaces, according to the province.

Each district is expected to create is own model under provincial guidelines based on the needs of local children and guardians.

The ministry says it intends to expand the program to other school districts using information and feedback gathered over the course of the pilot project.

The union representing school support staff in B.C. says it welcomes the program.

"We are excited to partner with government to help make lives easier for parents and continue to offer the same high-quality support to children before and after school that they receive during school hours," CUPE BC president Karen Ranalletta said in a statement.

"We recognize the need that families face in finding child care and our members are proud to be part of the solution."

According to provincial data, more than 900 facilities in B.C. already provide licensed child care on school grounds, with more than 70 already operated by local school districts.

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