Childcare is on track to get an unprecedented boost in Elkford this year.
The town is on the way to having three daycare facilities open by late 2022, with the Elkford Child Development Society having opened its doors in September, 2021, and two more in the works: Alpine Childcare Solutions and the Elkford Childcare Centre and Community Hub.
Daycare has been lacking in Elkford for most of the town’s history, according to Mayor Dean McKerracher.
“There’s always been a need for childcare,” he said.
“We have so many young people moving in now… couples that are both workers. Whether they work at the mine or they work somewhere else, they both have jobs. So there’s a need for childcare for sure. And we’ve known that for quite a while.”
Currently, the Elkford Child Development Society offers daycare service with a capacity of 30 children for ages 0-5. They opened their doors at 2200 Balmer Dr. in September, 2021.
Before that, there was Mountain Top Daycare, which ran from September 2016 to January 2019, with a capacity for eight children of varied ages, according to the daycare’s owner, Jodi Borys, who said she had to close down because she could not find qualified staff amid such a large workload.
“We never actually had an actual daycare facility until the Mountain Top came in,” McKerracher said.
After Mountain Top Daycare closed, there was a period with no childcare facilities. The only options available were from people in the community providing care for small amounts of children from their own homes, McKerracher said.
The next daycare in line for Elkford is Alpine Childcare Solutions, which is set to be open 24/7 to accommodate parents who do mining work. Future owner-operator, Stacey Chislett, was once a mining parent herself, and her facility will be based around childcare services she didn’t have when she was working, she said.
“That is my sole purpose, to be 24/7. Is to allow parents working night shifts to have quality care. To allow parents working day shifts at the mine to have it be feasible, where they can drop off their kids and still get to the bus stop or still get to work on time,” she said.
They are still in the building-permitting stage of the project. Chislett hopes to have the building constructed on the land at 2100 Balmer Dr. by spring this year. They are using a modular construction company, Jandel Homes, which does most of the building in a factory.
Chislett said she is already seeing a lot of interest from the community (and from families who plan to move to Elkford), suggesting a pent up demand for the services.
“I can definitely tell that there’s a need for it.”
Their full-time program will have 32 spaces to start, with 24 kids ages 5-12 able to be taken care of at once. They are thinking about training future staff in early childhood education to eventually be able to accommodate ages 0-5.
The third facility, the Childcare Centre and Community Hub, will be located in the old district office at 816 Michel Rd., and hopes to open its doors by September, 2022, according to the District of Elkford’s Chief Administrative Officer, Tyler Madsen. The district is doing the project management for the construction.
“We’re getting near the end of the design stage, and we’re hoping to go out for construction tender, public tender, in February,” Madsen said.
The daycare itself will be operated by the Elkford Women’s Task Force Society, whose executive director is Kim Bauer. It will have 28 childcare spaces, Madsen said
The ‘community hub’ side of the facility will be a multi-purpose space run by the Elkford Chamber of Commerce, according to Madsen. The Childcare Centre and Community Hub is being funded by three grants, two of which have been confirmed. The last one that they are still waiting on is for the ‘community hub’ side of the facility.
Mayor McKerracher said he thinks “it’s tremendous” that new daycares are coming to Elkford.
“It’s exciting that we have three. I’m sure that they’ll all work together to service the community.”