'Stress, anxiety' for parents seeking childcare as popular facility closes

Closure of popular business leaves parents scrambling


On Jan.18, parents of the Gordon Drive location were given some good news, albeit temporary. Building Blocks announced they'd come to an agreement with the developer that should allow most affected families to keep sending their children there until June.

Building Blocks said through a short-term lease extension granted by the developer, it would continue offering childcare services to families until June 2, 2023, as long as staffing levels can be maintained according to the provincial childcare licensing regulations..

-Original story

One of the many parents feeling blindsided by the imminent closure of a popular childcare facility in Kelowna says there is widespread anxiety and stress among those impacted.

Last week, Building Blocks announced the closure of its Gordon Drive location by the end of February, after the owners of the leased building sold for redevelopment.

It has left up to 200 families scrambling for alternatives in an already tight childcare market.

The announcement came two years earlier than expected for families, who say they’d been told the owners’ lease would be running to 2025. The building sold in 2021. Building Blocks’ operators said they were quitting the business after failing to find an alternative space.

A second site, on Sutherland Avenue, will be taken over by another daycare provider, ProducKIDvity, from April.

“The anxiety is high. There’s been one parent who’s put in his two weeks notice for his job because he’s got to stay at home and watch his boys now,” parent Chelsea Howanyk told Kelowna10. "I have a friend whose daughter has until the end of August before she starts Kindergarten, and she thinks she might take the whole summer off [from work].”

Howanyk has a three-year-old at the childcare and works various hours, including nights, while her husband is only home weekends. She said some of the waitlists of other operators she’s enquired about are two or three years long.

“The impact on us is huge, and I can’t really quit my job in this market right now with how inflation is going, and childcare. We can’t do it, we can’t manage,” she said.

Howanyk said she was encouraged to hear reports that the mayor of Kelowna, Tom Dyas, was looking into whether there was an interim space that could be found on the city’s real estate inventory. It was not immediately clear if any such property exists that could be used to deal with the crisis facing working families, but Howanyk said parents feel let down.

“I know it’s probably hard for them [Building Blocks] that they’re selling off their business and losing their livelihoods. But just to throw us under the bus and give us six weeks to find care, it’s unacceptable,” she said. “It’s unacceptable for parents to try and scramble looking for childcare in a market where there is no childcare.”

Howanyk said while she continues her hunt for a childcare space, in a perfect world, she’d like to see the whole campus be moved to a property where all the kids can stay together for however long they have left together.

“Our campus is like a little community, all the teachers are fantastic there… and everybody gets along.”

In a statement last week, Building Blocks said, in part: "we realized that losing our building was virtually the same as losing our business and we would be starting all over again.”

“Given the uncertainty around universal childcare, we can’t confidently plan for the future when we don’t know what the universal childcare model will ultimately look like and how we, as a private operator, will fit into it.”

Published 2023-01-16 by Glenn Hicks and Connor Chan

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