Little learners and their parents in Penticton, Kaleden, Naramata and Summerland now have access to more resources through a provincially-funded initiative.
The BC Early Years Centre officially opened its doors with a cake-cutting at Queen’s Park Elementary on Nov. 19.
The Queen’s Park location is one of five school locations including Kaleden, Parkway and Naramata. As well as the Summerland Food Bank will host the programming which intends to provide access to a range of early learning, health and family services for kids ages zero to six and their parents.
The Provincial Office for Early Years provided $52,000 in funding, which, based on the success of the program, has the chance of getting renewed next year.
“What they’re striving to do is ensure students or little learners will have access to speech pathologists infant development support so they are going to thrive and develop and hopefully have the ability to reach their full potential,” said Wendy Hyer, Superintendent for School District 67.
Hyer estimated, based on the district’s average kindergarten class sizes, that thousands of children will be accessing the programming along with their families.
“The real focus is we’ve got a lot of kids out there who don’t have access to services that they need and there could be barriers,” Hyer said. “So the purpose is to bring the services to them, or to help them access the services.”
The project is headed by Eileen Muezzin, Okanagan-Skaha Early Years facilitator.
“The other piece is that Eileen, when there’s a need, she may be able to do some workshops around supporting little ones with anxiety or supporting parents with behaviour challenges. Those sorts of things. So it’s not only helping the early learners, but it is supporting the young parents who need some guidance and help,” Hyer said.
The Early Years Centre provides information about child development and parenting, developmental screening and supports, culturally focussed family supports, referrals to services and supports that promote health early childhood development including speech and language development, childcare, health nurses or dental services. As well the program provides referrals to agencies assessing with housing, food security, income and transportation.
The centre is part of a province-wide initiative to provide families with one-stop convenient access to services and supports. SD67’s new centre is one of 21 new BC Early Years Centres opening this year bringing the provincial total to 47.