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Almost 1 year after closure, Watson Lake's daycare is up and running again

Last November the daycare shut down because it wasn't able to offer competitive wages to its staff. Government funding and support from the community has helped it reopen.

Daycare closed last November because board could not offer staff competitive wages

Elise Pendlebury, a parent and member of the daycare board, says her husband has now returned to work after being forced to stay home with their child because there were no daycare services in Watson Lake. (Elise Pendlebury)

After closing for nearly a year, the only licensed daycare in the Yukon community of Watson Lake is back in operation.

Last November the daycare shut down, leaving parents with few options. The non-profit was not able to offer staff wages that were competitive with other local employers. Even the local gas station in Watson Lake was reportedly offering staff $4 more an hour.

Now, the daycare has full enrolment and is even ready to expand, thanks to an increase in government funding and a huge effort from the community.

One of the people who has stepped up is Elise Pendlebury, a parent and member of the daycare board.

From left, Watson Lake daycare staff Ann-marie Smith, Mairead Hotson and Carly Gillis. (Elise Pendlebury)

She says her husband has now returned to work, after being forced to stay home with their child.

"Until the daycare was functioning, my partner was home with my child. And now he is out building houses, because we have a daycare," said Pendlebury.

She says everyone is stepping up to help get the daycare operational.

"We have dads that are painting rooms on the weekend. We got carpenters that are fixing things for us. Like today we have a locksmith who is coming to the daycare to help me change the locks and he just says, 'Don't worry about it. We know how important the daycare is,'" said Pendlebury.

The daycare is now fully operational. (Yukon Party)

Increasing salaries

Early this year, the Yukon and federal governments announced a new funding boost for Yukon daycare and day homes: $7.2 million over three years.

Facilities saw their funding increase by 14.5 per cent, with rural child care programs getting an additional 20 per cent boost to their direct operating grant.

Daycare board president Vanessa Law says it can now retain staff by increasing salaries.

"The government continued to support our direct operating grant [and] our operating expenses to keep that building going," said Law.  

She says the Yukon government has given them a one-time funding agreement to help with the costs of reopening the daycare. Part of the new agreement allows the daycare to increase entry level workers wages by $1.85 per hour.  

Law says the society wants to expand the daycare in the future and foster a partnership with the local Liard First Nation.

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