(Warman Childcare Centre photo)

A 15,000-square-foot former grocery store on Central Street in Warman will soon house a 90-space licensed childcare facility.

Warman City Council voted at its meeting on Monday, January 9 to approve a discretionary use application by the Warman Childcare Centre (WCC) to lease and renovate the building in order to operate a second facility.

The WCC currently operates a 46-spot licensed childcare building near the Brian King Centre. The addition of the second facility will bring the WCC’s total capacity up to 136 licensed childcare spots.

The two facilities will be operated as separate entities, but both will be under the non-profit WCC umbrella and overseen by the WCC board of directors. The new facility is expected to create an additional 35 to 40 jobs for early childhood educators. Currently, the WCC employs 14 early childhood education workers.

The additional space would enable the WCC to offer before and after school programming for school-age children at its own facility.

It would also allow the WCC to expand the age range for children in its care. Currently, the WCC facility provides care for children aged six weeks to six years. After expansion, it would be able to offer services for kids up to 12 years of age.

The Warman Childcare Centre will be leasing and renovating this former grocery store to accommodate 90 additional licensed childcare spaces

Renovations planned for the former grocery store include  the addition of fenced outdoor play areas and dedicated pickup and drop-off zones.

During discussion at the January 9 meeting, several councillors asked about measures to ensure the safety of children in the play areas. The city’s planning department staff noted that strict provincial regulations will be met.

WCC Director Tammy Desrosiers said in a December, 2022 interview with the Gazette that there is a pressing need for additional childcare spaces in Warman and the surrounding area. She noted that as of mid-November, the WCC has a waiting list of 257 children, and it’s growing all the time.

In the spring of 2021, the WCC was approved by the provincial Ministry of Education for an additional 36 licensed childcare spots.  On November 21, 2022, the WCC was approved for an additional 54 licensed childcare spaces, bringing the total to 90 spots; the maximum allowed in a single facility.

“So we really do need to expand to two facilities,” said Desrosiers in the interview published in the December  8, 2022 edition of the Gazette. “We would retain the 46 spots at our current building; and would have 90 spots at the new building; bringing the total number of licensed childcare spaces to 136 altogether.”

She noted that the Ministry of Education provides funding for each licensed childcare spot.

In 2021, the provincial and federal governments signed an agreement to open 28,000 new childcare spaces in Saskatchewan; as well as reduce childcare fees and increase childcare workers’ wages.

The Canada-Saskatchewan Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement aims to ensure accessibility, inclusivity, inclusion and quality of childcare programs across the country.

According to Desrosiers, the government funding makes childcare more affordable and accessible because the grants supplement close to 70 per cent of parents’ fees.