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YWCA after-school programming cancelled at Ecole St. Joseph

“We do hope that the solution can be found,” said Kate Reid, president of the YWCA NWT, following an announcement that AfterSchool Programming at Ecole St. Joseph School could be no more.
Ecole St. Joseph School is on the verge of losing its AfterSchool Programming following an unexpected staff shortage at YWCA NWT. NNSL file photo

“We do hope that the solution can be found,” said Kate Reid, president of the YWCA NWT, following an announcement that AfterSchool Programming at Ecole St. Joseph School could be no more.

This comes following an unexpected staff shortage at the non-profit YWCA NWT, according to a notice that Ecole St. Joseph School (ESJS) received from Yellowknife Catholic Schools on Sept. 1

“As a result, they are unable to meet the planned start of Sept. 1, and will now open on Sept. 12, 2022,” reads a notice from Yellowknife Catholic Schools on the situation. “Further, we were informed that the last day for the YWCA program will be Sept. 29.”

“There are three different after school groups at ESJS affected by the closure, with a total of 45 after-school childcare attendees,” reads information from Alayna Ward, director of community relations of YWCA NWT. “We are fully aware of how stressful and inconvenient this must be for you, especially receiving such news on short notice.”

Yellowknife Catholic Schools met during the morning of Sept. 1 to explore options for the future.

Reid, in a discussion with Yellowknifer, provided insight on why the forthcoming closure is occurring.

“So earlier this week, YWCA had an unexpected loss of childcare staff that were going to be delivering our programs at St. Joe’s,” she explained. “We do understand that people need to do what’s right for them and their families if they find a higher-paying position elsewhere. So, loss of staff means that as of this week, we don’t have enough staff to meet the legal child-to-staff ratio requirements that’s required for a licensed childcare program.

“That’s why we had to delay the opening of our program at St. Joe’s. And, unfortunately, we just don’t anticipate being able to hire the minimum required staff to offer consistent quality programming for St. Joe’s.”

Consequently, Reid and the YWCA advised the Catholic school board and parents and guardians with children in the program that the likely future outcome would be the closure of the AfterSchool program at St. Joe’s as of Sept. 29.

YWCA NWT had been working with St. Joe’s since this past June, when the organization knew that there was going to be a schedule change.

“So currently, St. Joe’s is operating on half days on Thursdays,” said Reid. “That means that we would have to be at the school for a longer period of time and require more staff to follow the associated regulations to make sure that we’re doing our daycare programs safely within the regulation to operate safely and effectively.”

She added that due to the non-profit nature of YWCA NWT, increasing staff is going to be a difficult task.

”We don’t have as much money as some organizations to pay staff,” she said. “I’ve reached out to the board to see if they can provide additional support for our programming at St. Joe’s or if there’s any other ways to avoid this closure.

“Stable funding as a non-profit, we’re dependent on external funding to run our programs and funding shortages means that we can’t pay our staff as much as we’d like,” she continued.

In the event that AfterSchool Programming does close permanently, Reid has discussed what the YWCA NWT would like to see from other organizations taking over the role.

”We just hope that anybody who is providing after-school childcare keeps costs affordable for families,” said Reid. “That’s our main priority, and the reason that YWCA has run after-school care for so long is to provide an affordable option for folks with limited needs.”

As for other programs offered through the YWCA NWT, these are feeling the pinch as well as, despite finding good funding sources during the height of the pandemic, having enough financial resources available currently is an issue.

“We’re constantly seeking out grants and funds and we have many, many programs beyond AfterSchool Programming, including housing and shelters for women and families fleeing violence,” said Reid. “All of these programs have funding shortages and the lack of consistent, stable and adequate funding puts families and children and our community at risk.”

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) stated that “ECE staff are working closely with both the Yellowknife Catholic School administration, as well as the YWCA, to find a solution to provide out of school child care at ESJS and minimize the disruption of services for families.”