Parents of elementary school students hoping to get their children into after-school programs are out of luck, as organizations running the programs scramble to secure more space.
Spots in the YWCA After School Program are full at J.H. Sissons School and St. Joseph Catholic School, with 42 students on the waitlist.
Spaces are limited at the other schools the program runs in, which are Weledeh Catholic School, Mildred Hall School, N.J. Machperson School and Range Lake North School.
The NWT Montessori Society has 20 students on the waitlist of the after-school program it runs at N.J. Macpherson.
With both programs working to secure extra spaces, parents are left waiting or looking for after-school care providers outside of schools.
Janette Morris, director of child and youth services for YWCA Yellowknife, said in the seven years she has worked for the YWCA, the program has always filled up fast and every year there are waitlists. With the introduction of junior kindergarten this coming school year, Morris has already seen more demand.
“We’ve already got JKs on the list, they’re already calling and what I’m telling families is we’ll take your name for now, we have to get approval from our license department, we’ll get it organized and keep you posted,” she said.
Morris is now working with schools to increase space in all the after-school programs the YWCA offer, which take students from four- to 10-years old. The process takes time and involves staffing, licence inspections, licence approval, fire and health regulations and space provided by the school. For Morris, the preference would be to complete this process before the end of June. The program currently has 270 licensed spaces across the schools it operates in.
For Jessica Copple, executive director of NWT Montessori Society, the problem has always been space. She hopes a recent discussion with the principal of N.J. Macpherson can open up another classroom, which could house 16 of the 20 students on the Montessori waitlist.
After-school programs also struggle with staffing said Claudia Parker, superintendent of Yellowknife Catholic Schools. As the positions are mostly part-time, some staffed by high-school students, Parker said this limits the amount of students they can take in.
For parents who are unable to gets spots in after-school programs by August, Morris recommends they contact the Department of Education, Culture and Employment.
“Their job is to help make sure that families have care, so that a lot of times what they can do is tell you who is running day homes close by, who else is offering after school daycare in your community,” she said.
Amber George, communications co-ordinator at the department, said the department is in contact with the many territorially licensed child-care providers and is available to support the YWCA in their licensing process. She noted expansion of access to early-childhood programming is a priority for the GNWT and aligns with the mandate of education minister Alfred Moses to develop an action plan for universal daycare including a timeline for implementation in the next two years from Nov. 7, the date the mandate was given to Moses.