St. John Community School childcare spaces officially open

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald (L to R) Jodene Demorest, Sheri Snyder, Krystal Hadlow, Darlene Slater, Tammy Scott and St. John Community School Principal Brock Skomorowski cut a ceremonial ribbon to officially open the new Prince Albert Child Care St. John on Tuesday afternoon.

The Prince Albert Child Care Co-operative Association officially opened their fourth location at St. John Community School on Tuesday afternoon.

Prince Albert Child Care St. John will provide 40 new childcare spaces. Jodene Demorest, the Executive Director of the Co-operative said opening more spots will help ease the burden for parents in Prince Albert.

“It’s more about the relief that some parents get when I make that phone call and letting them know that spots are available for their child or their children,’ Demorest said.

“They can enter back into the workforce or they can move their children from unlicensed private childcare where it’s not monitored (and) there are no expectations, to a licensed facility where they can take advantage of the $10 day care, because you don’t have that when they’re in a private home. They still need to charge their $600 to $800 a month where we’re $217.50 a month.”

Demorest said that it helps pass savings on to parents in need of childcare. The centre has space for six infants, 10 toddlers, and 24 preschoolers.

“We follow the Saskatchewan curriculum of play and exploration, and all of our educators are educated in the early childhood education program through Sask Polytech,” Demorest explained.

Demorest said the Ministry of Education called her in 2022 to let her know that 40 spaces were open for Prince Albert.

“The director of education for the Prince Albert Catholic School Division (Lorel Trumier) gave me a call in early April of 2022. I toured her facility and knew that St. John was the right spot,” Demorest said.

Demorest said the area was a childcare desert before they opened, with the closest spaces near 10th Avenue East.

The most recent spaces to open for the Co-operative was at St. Michael School, which was also in partnership with the Catholic School Division. The daycare at St. Michael opened in August 2022. Before and after school age programs will also be available.

“It was quicker because we had taken over operations from another organization,” Demorest said. “That’s why that one was so nice and quick to actually develop the spaces and meet the childcare guidelines for usable floor space and windows and bathrooms and all those sorts of things.”

The development process took roughly two years.

“It takes time to order supplies, it takes time to pour concrete, create bathrooms, make windows bigger,” Demorest explained.

Demorest added that the St. John community has been welcoming since the spaces opened on March 4.

“The school has been phenomenal in welcoming us and making sure that our needs are met or if we needed anything or just managing working together because it’s a new partnership for the St. John’s facility,” she explained.

The event was an opportunity to catch a glimpse of how they use the environment to shape the learning that takes place in our new facility. There are still spaces open, but Demorest said that’s partially to ease the transition for the children. The facility can still fit another 20 children.

“We did just open March 4 and got many in and we will continue to do that as we go along. We need to do it slowly. We can’t throw 40 children in that. It would be a recipe for disaster. Nobody’s going to enjoy it,” Demorest said.

Trustee Darlene Slater was one of several PA Catholic trustees on hand for the opening and said creating any space welcoming children was an excellent development.

“Families can make that transition from this space and then carry on into St. John’s. It’ll be something familiar,” Slater said.

“It will really become like their second home because they’re spending most of their days here and then everything will just be so familiar as they just gradually use the other spaces in the school they’ll become comfortable and I think they’ll know they’re welcomed.”

The tender for St. John was released to SaskTenders in March, 2023. The project was the work of RNF Contractors and AODBT.

Demorest agreed that creating a space that can help transition children from daycare to school is welcome

“The relationship that teachers, the elementary teachers have with our educators makes that transition from early learning into the actual kindergarten much smoother,” she explained.

“If a child has any special needs, we are able to work with each other to ensure that those needs are met, or even if it’s just something they don’t like and we can make sure you don’t put ranch on something because it won’t. It’s those little things that make a big difference in a child’s day.”

Slater welcomed the addition of the spaces to the city.

“I just think it’s great that Prince Albert has all these newly created spaces and like I said, as a grandparent whose grandchild is just starting daycare, we know that it’s necessary,” she said.