Nova Scotia

Halifax-area parents struggling to find after-school care for September

There are still several weeks before classes let out for summer, but some Halifax-area families are already scrambling to find care for their children before and after school starting in September.

Aimee Fry, a mother from Sambro, N.S., intends to return to school to attend a hairdressing program in September, but she’s been unable to secure care for her three school-age children .

“It’s quite frustrating because I’m at the point in my life that I want to get my life together,” said Fry. “I’ve got three kids … so I’m kind of ready to make that step forward going into hair school. But it just doesn’t seem possible at all.”

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) offers before- and after-school care for more than 4,000 students across 72 elementary schools as part of its Excel program. It’s one of the largest programs of its kind in the Maritimes, according to HRCE.

But Excel doesn’t run in every school, and at Sambro Elementary in Fry’s district, it only offers after-school care. Also challenging is the program’s long waitlist. 

Lindsay Bunin, a spokeswoman for HRCE, said there are about 1,500 students on the waitlist for Excel’s after-school program and 700 waiting for a spot in the before-school program.

Guardians pay a fee for children to attend the program.

After-school child care in short supply 

Dr. Caitlin Lees, a physician in Halifax, said she won’t be able to go back to work unless her daughter, Isla, gets a coveted spot in the Excel after-school program for the upcoming 2024-25 academic year.

“I was shocked that after-school care [with Excel] was more challenging to get into than daycare,” she said. “I’m dismayed.”

See also  Health center in Nova Scotia to bring health professionals and government together

Lees said she applied for her daughter’s spot at LeMarchant-St. Thomas Elementary School the moment applications were accepted and was told she’d find out more later.

“I’ve been told by people with kids older than mine to prepare to not have any access to that this year, possibly for another couple years.”

Excel has capacity for 2,169 students in the before-school program and 4,233 in the afternoon program. Bunin said the waitlist numbers this year are consistent with recent years, but added the waitlist has grown as the population grows in the municipality.

Excel is not the only program that is booked up with a waitlist full of kids who need care. The Canada Games Centre in Halifax runs an after-school program that goes until 5:30 p.m., but every spot is already taken for the next school year.

“Over the years, we have seen an increase in demand for our after-school programming. Our waitlist is currently full at 20 requests,” the centre said in a statement May 30.

‘It’s a really big problem,’ says NDP MLA 

Dartmouth NDP MLA Susan Leblanc said there’s always a massive amount of people who don’t get a spot when it comes time to register for Excel. She said she’s been hearing complaints about it from her constituents.

Leblanc said she’s happy with what she’s seeing in the daycare sector with more, cheaper spaces opening up, but said there is still more work to be done for school-age children who need care.

“It’s a really big problem and it needs to be looked at as soon as possible,” Leblanc said.

Lees says if she doesn’t get a spot, she’ll have to make some difficult choices.

See also  School bus runs cancelled in Cape Breton due to driver shortages

“If I don’t have care for my children, I can’t go into work,” she said. “And I think that that would be the same for most parents and especially women, because we know that the burden of child care disproportionately falls to women.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button