The YMCA-run Little Pilots Daycare may be grounded at the end of June, but that will not affect the foreseeable future of Sea Island Elementary school where it has operated from for the past 24 years.
Mark De Mello, secretary treasurer with the Richmond School District, told the Richmond News the closure of the daycare is not expected to change matters for the 40 students enrolled in the two, combined classes that serve kindergarten to Grade 1, and Grades 2 to 3.
Students in Grades 4 to 7 who live in the schools catchment area are bussed to Brighouse Elementary.
The closure of the daycare itself will not have an impact on the continued operation of the school, De Mello said. The school serves the needs of the community, and unless theres a dramatic change in those needs, theres no reason for us to change our approach for this school.
DeMello added that based on discussions with the Sea Island community, the district does not foresee a large drop off in enrolment numbers.
Every indication that we have is that for at least the next few years enrolment is expected to be fairly consistent, he said. Well have numbers that are sustainable.
Also remaining steady is the number of adult learning programs which use spare classroom space at the school.
Currently, there are no immediate plans to replace the daycare with another tenant. But De Mello said he suspected that once news of the Little Pilots facility shutting its doors becomes more widespread, another daycare could step in and fill the void.
But that may be hard to do since the YMCA cited dwindling enrolment as the main factor in closing Little Pilots.
The demographics of the community have significantly changed over the years, which has resulted in the communitys needs changing, said Kim Hempler, operations manager with YMCA Childcare.
At the moment, Little Pilots has 10 students, just under half the 25 the facility is licensed to accommodate in the three to five age group.
Knowing what enrolment would look like for September, that the demand for childcare at the site just wasnt there, basically, Hempler said, adding there were thoughts of broadening the daycares services by offering before and after school care to boost numbers.
But we didnt find a demand there for that, Hempler said.
The coming closure has left some families in the lurch looking for daycare over the summer months. One parent sizing up options is Cara Zannotto whose five-year-old son Jeremy has attended Little Pilots for the past two-and-a-half years.
A lot of the parents are frustrated that there isnt continuous care, Zannotto said. I understand if enrolment is down, but the kids are now in flux for two months.
Zannotto said when she heard the daycare was closing she called the facilitys director.
I said this is more than just a business. These are childrens lives. Have you looked at all the options? she said.
Is there nothing you can do to get enrolment up? Its been here for 20 some odd years.
Zannotto added she is disappointed at the decision to close, especially since she drives from the Kingswood area to Sea Island to drop her son at daycare.
Another parent lamenting the coming closure is Lisa Smedman who lives in Burkeville, a small community of about 300 mostly Second World War vintage homes clustered in and around the school on Sea Island.
Smedman, who has lived in Burkeville for eight years, sent her older son, Kyle, to Little Pilots before he aged out. He now attends Brighouse Elementary.
She currently has four-year-old Quinn enrolled at the daycare. And while she has shifted her work schedule to allow her to take care of Quinn once Little Pilots closes, Smedman said the quality of life for many families in Burkeville will suffer after the doors are shut.
This is a great little community, It feels like a small town right in the heart of a big city, she said. Parents can walk their kids to the school and daycare, and everyone pretty much knows each other. And theres an extremely strong sense of community.
But the ones who stand to lose the most, Smedman said, are the daycare children who are destined to attend Sea Island Elementary.
Smedman said in her case, older son Kyle enjoyed an easy transition from daycare to kindergarten by literally just walking across the hallway.
Plus, the kids have the advantage of an enormous, grassy school field out back, a great play area, and a just a much nicer more open environment than at a lot of daycares, she said.
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