New Fort Smith daycare to open, offering eight places

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A society working to open a new daycare in Fort Smith has announced it is partnering with the Town to make the project happen.

The Fort Smith Daycare Society, which has been working since 2015 to bring more daycare spaces to the community, made the announcement on Tuesday.

There is no confirmed date for the new facility to open.

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The daycare will open in the town's recreation centre as a temporary home until a permanent location is identified and acquired.

"We are so happy to have this partnership with the Town and feel it will benefit the whole community," said Samantha Stokell, the society's president, in a news release.

"It has been a long time since there has been a daycare centre here and, although we are starting small, the board feels it’s a positive step to open more childcare spaces in Fort Smith."

The daycare will begin with eight places for children aged two to five, the society said, "with the intention of opening more spots in the future" – including for infants up to two years of age.

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"The Town of Fort Smith is excited for the opening of the new community daycare and looking forward to the daycare expanding capacity," said Mayor Lynn Napier-Buckley in the same news release.

"We have seen the increased need in the community and are ready to be a part of the solution to providing childcare to those families who are in the workforce and attending school."

Childcare 'impossible right now'

The society hopes to receive territorial government funding and assistance to get the daycare open, but said it would not have a timeline for opening the facility until it had met licensing requirements, secured funding, and hired staff.

"Job ads will be posted soon for the executive director position and a primary childcare worker," read the news release.

Earlier this year, Stokell told Cabin Radio only two licensed day homes current offer approximately 16 spots in Fort Smith. Quoting census data, the society said Fort Smith's residents include 385 children aged nine or younger, 170 of whom are four or younger.

“It’s pretty much impossible to find childcare right now,” said Stokell in June, “so people are having to have a spouse stay home from work – not necessarily because they want to, but because there is just no other option.

“We feel it’s really important for parents to have a choice to stay home or to go to work.”

Previously, the society had sought to partner with the NWT's YWCA chapter – which planned to sell a residential property it owned in Yellowknife and put the proceeds toward the construction of a Fort Smith daycare.

However, October's fire at Yellowknife's YWCA-operated Rockhill housing complex forced the organization to reprioritize and drop its plans to help launch a daycare.

A waiting list for the new daycare is already open. To join, email the society.

With files from Sarah Pruys