Erin Barry (left) speaks to supporters and officials about the new Early Years Centre in rural Lumby, which is finally able to open its doors. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Doors finally set to open at North Okanagan child care facility

Whitevale’s Early Years Centre helps ease care crisis for dozens of families

After a year of fundraising and overcoming significant setbacks, the Early Years Centre between Lumby and Lavington has announced it is ready to open its doors to families March 2 — and the response has already been overwhelming.

“Families in our community have such a great need for quality child care and we had originally hoped to open last summer, so we’ve had a tremendous response to this news,” said Roxanne Brierley, capital campaign coordinator of The Bridge Educational Society that has established the centre. “We’re so thankful for parents’ patience and the funding that came through, and we just can’t wait to open the doors.”

In late August, just weeks away from completion of the 6,250 square foot facility and with 60 families on a waiting list, the centre had to pause construction and postpone opening after learning in order to gain occupancy permits, the Centre would have to install a $200,000 water holding system for firefighting support. At the Okanagan Waldorf School, also established by the society and sharing a campus, fire trucks were able to rely on their mobile water tanks, as well as the adjacent Duteau Creek, to help preserve the buildings long after children are evacuated.

READ MORE: Lumby child care centre hit with unforeseen expense asks for public help

After appealing to the community and businesses for support to bolster the nearly $1 million raised toward construction—including securing $830,000 in various grants—enough additional funding was secured to move forward with the installation of the necessary water holding system.

“We were so thrilled,” said Brierley. “We could finally install the fire suppression system and we knew what that meant for these families who had to make all kinds of arrangements to be able to hold down their jobs.”

Despite the snow, ice and freezing temperatures, excavators dug a gigantic hole in January for the water tanks, which will hold 250,000 litres of water, concrete was poured and volunteers rolled up their sleeves over the holidays to begin painting.

“Now we get to focus on bringing this phenomenal space to life and bringing together our educational team.”

The Early Years Centre will offer infant toddler, daycare and afterschool spaces for children; full and half-day spaces are available. The innovative facility features four connected main classrooms with separate entrances so children feel welcome walking into their own space each day. The centre will focus on ‘whole child’ learning to meet each child’s individual needs, and will offer opportunities for experiential and community learning on its rural farm-forest campus.

Families interested in reserving a spot can contact the Okanagan Waldorf School administrative office at info@okanaganwaldorfschool.org or call 254-547-9212.

The Society hosted a job fair Feb. 1 at the Early Years Centre at 730 Whitevale Rd., but continues to look for qualified educators who are passionate about working within a community who supports and values early childhood education.

READ MORE: Support sought to ease childcare crisis near Vernon


@VernonNews
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A student at The Bridge Educational Society stands next to the $200,000 water holding system which the Early Years Centre fundraised to bring in so that it can finally open its doors March 2. (Submitted Photo)

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