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North Van school district points to top school sites for future childcare spaces

Seven schools identified as potential childcare locations

The North Vancouver School District has identified seven school properties as potential sites for future childcare spaces, with Capilano, Carisbrooke and Eastview schools at the top of the list.

School trustees recently endorsed plans for district staff to continue exploring options that would allow future standalone childcare spaces to be built and operated on school properties that have been identified as having the best potential.

The three North Vancouver school sites highlighted as best options combine having buildable land available with higher levels of need for daycare spaces, including before- and after-school care, compared to current supply.

Other school sites that might fit the bill included Norgate, Braemar, Mountainside and Sutherland.

In a recent presentation to trustees, school district facilities and planning co-ordinator James Bell and assistant superintendent Chris Atkinson explained how staff arrived at recommending those particular school sites.

A daycare for up to 25 children typically requires about 340 square metres of space, said Bell, including 180 square metres of indoor space and 160 square metres of outdoor space.

Fields and classrooms not always available

“I believe there's a perception that our fields are often available or that our interior spaces can be used, but it's not necessarily true,” said Bell.

Fields are often used to build when it comes time to replacing schools, and portables are often placed on fields, he said. Classrooms and libraries are also viewed as being empty when school is not in session, but those aren’t usually intended to be shared spaces, he said.

The best options, he said, are purpose-built spaces, included in schools as community amenities. One advantage of those is that when classrooms get converted into childcare space, if school enrolment starts to grow, the Ministry of Education can demand that the space be converted back to classrooms. With a purpose-built space, that doesn’t happen, said Bell.

Staff first looked at schools to see which were at or near capacity already and either already have portables on site or will likely require portables soon. They also examined municipal and provincial land requirements for school sites, based on school enrolment capacity, that dictate the number of parking spaces and playground area required, for instance.

Land requirements a barrier at some school sites

That combination of factors eliminated about 25 school sites, according to Bell’s presentation.

Of those left, the possibility exists for creating childcare operations on several sites, although none of the properties are perfect. In the case of Braemar, for instance, the land available is heavily sloped and treed, which could increase costs. In the case of Sutherland, enrolment pressures will likely mean the school will have to expand by several classrooms in the future. Other sites would likely involve some impacts to school fields or property setbacks.

In the case of Capilano, an 800-square-metre flat area exists in the northeast corner of the property that could work well, said Bell. That could potentially help with the need for childcare identified in the Upper Capilano area, said Atkinson.

Eastview also has the potential for a childcare centre on a portion of the large school field that could address demand in Lower Lynn, he said.

There may also be an option to put a childcare space on a field at Carisbrooke, he said, to address demand for spaces in Lynn Valley.

The match between available sites and demand for childcare spaces isn’t perfect, said Atkinson, but does represent a start in addressing the need for more childcare spaces in North Vancouver.

The idea would be to potentially make sites available to established daycare operators who could access provincial funding aimed at creating more childcare spaces, said Atkinson.

Initial discussions with service providers, district planners and provincial childcare licensing staff have been encouraging, he said.

Atkinson said the school district sites alone won’t solve the childcare needs in all parts of North Vancouver. “The school district is just one stakeholder in this.”

Demand for childcare is high, he said, with a need for up to 2,000 childcare spaces in both the city and district in the next 10 years.

There are currently daycares already operating on 16 of the public school sites in North Vancouver.



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