Michael Yakubowich, a former PAC veteran at Willow’s Elementary School is one of hundreds of parents against the idea of using the school’s field for daycare space (News Staff)

Parents protest childcare spaces at Willows Elementary in Oak Bay

Plans put forward by SD61 would place two buildings on the school’s field

Yellow tape and orange pylons on the field at École Willows Elementary School lay out the design of two future buildings and a parking lot which will act as a future daycare facility.

Plans put forward by the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) propose two 30 x 60 foot portables which would provide eight spaces for children under three-years-old, 20 group child care spaces for kids younger than school-aged and 50 after-school spaces.

Although built on school property, the daycare would not be run by SD61 but rather leased to a licensee to run the daycare operations.

READ MORE: Childcare expansion would divide Willows School field

However, parents like Michael Yakubowich are not happy with the plan; he was out on the field on Monday morning protesting the move.

“The district is going to lose this field when there’s so many alternatives,” said Yakubowich, who has seen his three children attend Willows, and been a PAC member at the school for 14 years. “To take away greenspace and put them in boxes is bad education.”

Yakubowich said parents fundraised and donated funds to SD61 for the field, and at the time were promised that the field would be maintained. Now, plans for the daycare were put forward in a process which Yakubowich said lacked proper public consultation.

ALSO READ: Neighbours concerned over lack Willows School consultations

Yakubowich isn’t alone in his protests; as of Monday morning more than 635 people signed an online petition against the installation of the facilities at the Willow’s field– also called the Musgrave field.

Petitioners argue that installing the daycare on site would destroy greenspace and increase traffic in an already busy area. They put forward two alternative locations including Uplands Elementary School, which was closed to public use two years ago and now serves as an international education location, or Richmond Elementary School, which is also closed.

ALSO READ: ‘No work shall proceed’ on Oak Bay childcare spaces until more consultation completed, says school district

SD61 Secretary Treasurer Mark Walsh said that neither of those sites seem like a practical alternative.

“Most parents at Willows are asking for before and after school care,” Walsh said. “Moving to a spot without students during the day doesn’t make sense.”

Walsh said that presently, SD61 is taking feedback and looking at closer alternative options, including simply putting in an addition to the school, which saw its last expansion 40 years ago.

“We’re also taking a closer look at our numbers,” Walsh said. “The other concern is Willows is very full and is lacking amenity space. But, the demographics of our projects are scheduled to decline in the next couple years, so we have to better gauge our demand.”

As far as consultation processes, Walsh said the school had to apply for funding early to ensure the resources were available. The district was approved for all six of the daycare projects it applied for, and is now working through its planning and consultation phases.

Willows is the last of the six sites that will be built, following construction of childcare facilities at Tillicum Elementary, Vic West Elementary, Frank Hobbs Elementary, Doncaster Elementary and Ècole Macaulay Elementary. The total funding set aside for Willows sits at $818,750.

Any further consultations are scheduled to occur after feedback to the District’s proposed catchment boundary changes are reviewed near the end of April.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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