The Surrey school district, and its support staff, are helping to provide child care for some essential service workers.
For the past three weeks, the district has been providing childcare for “tier 1 essential service workers,” but it announced on Friday (April 17) that the childcare has now been expanded to “tier 2.”
Tier 1 includes health/health services, social services, law enforcement, first responders and emergency response.
Tier 2 includes vulnerable population service providers, critical infrastructure, food and agriculture service providers, transportation, financial institutions, industry and manufacturing, sanitation, communication and information technology and other non-essential health service providers, according to the district.
The school district initially sent out a survey to find out how many parents in the district are “tier 1 essential service workers” and about 350 parents responded that they may be in need of child care, said Surrey Board of Education Chair Laurie Larsen.
Larsen said each respondent was then called to ask about their needs.
“So far, there hasn’t been 350 children,” she said. “Some have found other daycares, some have stayed with family and some have just found alternate (childcare). It may vary from day to day because they are on 12-hour shifts so they may work two days and then not work for another four.”
There are currently three school sites in the district being used for child care, Larsen said, with it open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Larsen said the district tried to pick the three sites so that it would be close to the essential services, such as Surrey Memorial Hospital, “for that reason to make it easier for parents to drop off and pick up their children when they finish their shift.”
Marcey Campbell, the president of CUPE 728 which represents more than 4,000 support workers for the district, said more than 200 support staff said they wanted help with the child care in the district.
“Our union is proud of just how many members wanted to sign up and help our community,” Campbell said.
According to a Ministry of Education resource, “to help sustain provincial pandemic response efforts,” school districts and independent schools were asked to prioritize in-person care and learning opportunities for children whose parents provide essential services in the community.
The “primary focus” is for children aged five to 12, states the ministry, but districts and independent schools “where possible, they should work with community partners and non-profit organizations to coordinate school-age care and early childhood (age 0-5) care.”