‘Lined up all night’: Parents camp overnight for child care spots in Oak Bay

‘Lined up all night’: Parents camp overnight for child care spots in Oak Bay
Parents are pictured lining up outside Willows Elementary in Oak Bay on Wednesday night in hopes of securing a child care spot.

It’s eleven o’clock on Wednesday night, and instead of being at home, these parents are camping outside a local rec centre. That’s how desperate they are for child care in Oak Bay.

Heather Croft was keeping her sister’s spot in the line on Wednesday night.

“It’s like waiting for Taylor Swift tickets before the Internet,” she said. “That’s what’s so crazy.”

But this is the state of child care at Willow’s Elementary School.

These parents believe spending a night in the cold is the only way they’ll get their children a spot, including Peter Laird.

“So today we decided to come early at 4:30 [p.m.] so that we could be first in line,” he told CHEK News.

He’s trying to get before and after school care for his son, Walker. Even though he arrived late Wednesday afternoon, he’ll probably be out of luck.

“Hoping they change the whole system, the way they do this,” Laird said.

Kevin Murdoch, Mayor of Oak Bay, said the all-night camp out isn’t necessary.

He says it’s not first come, first served and that staff work to fill spots that fit for families.

“They just need to fill in the form, and physically drop it off. They do not need to line,” Murdoch said.

But parents here, aren’t buying it. One parent who was lining up outside Willow’s Elementary on Wednesday night said they waited 14 hours last year, and didn’t get a spot.

Sean Donnelly said he and his wife have no option but to line up.

“If we don’t get into before and after school care, it’s going to be a major impact on our professional lives,” he said.

Ryan Wallis would prefer a fairer way to decide child care spots.

“I think a lottery would be better. I think obviously the best solution would be to have more care, so that people who need after school care can get it without herculean efforts,” he said.

SEE ALSO: ‘Needs to be a top priority’: Advocates urge province to increase $10-a-day child-care funding

Ken Van Leusden, co-chair of the Willows Elementary School Parents Advisory Committee, said there has to be a better, less stressful way to help families.

“The process is very arduous and doesn’t seem fair, it’s hard to get in,” he said. “The real problem is that there is not the capacity. What do parents do? I’m hearing from parents now. They lined up all night. They are 10th in line, they don’t even think they are going to get in now. So now what do they do?”

Other municipalities don’t require parents to overnight camp, but with Willows being the only public elementary school in Oak Bay, demand is at an all-time high.

That means parents like Brian Wall are not taking chances.

“Despite us waiting in this lineup for 12 hours or so, we’ll probably be on the waitlist,” he said Wednesday night. “So we’ve heard there is no spots.”

For these tired parents, the real wait begins as they cross their fingers and wait to hear that their all-night campout was worth it.

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Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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