Finding affordable, quality childcare has long been a challenge in Fort McMurray. Five years ago, the Fort McMurray Catholic School District, in partnership with Mammoet Canada Western Ltd. and Northeast Alberta Child and Family Services, introduced the Out of School Care program to address childcare needs in the community. The program’s mandate is to provide an affordable, safe and caring environment for children with easy access for families.
Since it’s opening, the Out of School Care program has exploded, both in popularity and in size. What began small with limited spaces at one downtown school, Father Turcotte, and one uptown, Sister Mary Phillips, now boasts 155 spaces across six schools – Father Turcotte, Sister Mary Phillips, St. Anne, Father Beauregard, Good Shepherd and St. Gabriel. There are also currently over 100 children awaiting openings in the program.
The program’s newest location at Good Shepherd School hosted their grand opening celebration on June 20th. Though Janet Huffman, Out of School Care program coordinator Fort McMurray Catholic District, explained that the program has been running at half capacity since the beginning of January.
“We opened a new program at Good Shepherd School because parents and the community were requesting more childcare spaces and Good Shepard School was the school that had space available at their facility,” Huffman said.
“The response has been great. We currently have 12 children registered in the program, so there are spaces available for next year. It is the only program that we have spaces available for next year.”
The Out of School Care program offers childcare before school beginning at 6:15 a.m. and after school until 6:30 p.m. They also provide full-day care during professional development days. Huffman says a typical day starts off “low key” in the morning with lots of conversations and quiet play. Children are then provided a group breakfast with lots of social interaction before heading off to school around 8:00 a.m.
“When they come back to us in the afternoon they have snack first, which is more of a mini-meal than a snack. In this kind of weather right now there is a lot of outdoor play, outdoor exploring, using the trail systems and playgrounds and just having fun and playing. Inside the building there’s always blocks, building areas, there are couches for quiet areas, there’s lots of games, lots of cards,” Huffman described.
“The staff interact and observe the children to see what interests them and then they do the planning based on what they see. So, when they put supplies out for what is going to be happening for the day it’s things that the children are interested in, it’s not just ideas that the staff thought would be cool.”
All Out of School Care programs are available to students in grades one through six, there are no additional requirements in order to access the program, though preference is given to Catholic school students and those attending the program full time.
Program fees for before and after school care are $450 a month, after school only is $350 a month and mornings only are $250 a month. There are currently 13 openings for the next school year, all of which are at the Good Shepherd program.
Huffman promised the program has no plans of slowing down. “We have plans in the future to expand to other schools in Fort McMurray we are just waiting for new schools to be built so that we have room available in our current school.”
For more information on the Out of School Care Program, including to registration and be added to the waitlist visit the website at http://fmcschools.ca/out-of-school-care or contact Huffman by email at Janet.Huffman@fmcsd.ab.ca or phone 780-799-5700.