August 11th, 2020

Preschool, daycare enrolment figures decline

By Tim Kalinowski on November 30, 2017.

Greater competition in Medicine Hat for fewer daycare and preschool kids and a difficult economy are key factors driving down pre-K enrolment numbers as a whole in the city. Pictured: Outdoor fun at Medicine Hat Community Preschool.--NEWS PHOTO TIM KALINOWSKI

Preschools and daycare facilities across the city are experiencing a downturn in the number of kids enrolled, despite indicators suggesting there has been no plunge in the city’s birth rate in recent years.

There are many potential causes for this downturn but Colleen Beazer, owner of Busy Bee Preschool, says oversaturation in the marketplace is likely one.

“More preschools and daycares have opened up in the city in recent years, and so that disperses the numbers out,” says Beazer. “When we started 21 years ago, there were maybe three preschools in town, but now there are way more than that.”

In her preschool’s case, Beazer says she has seen no slowing of demand for her morning programs, but admits her waiting lists have shrunk quite markedly in the past year for afternoon programs.

“We have seen a little bit of a downturn in our numbers,” she confirms. “With more parents going to work, they are looking for a full-day program where ours, with us being exclusively a preschool, is only a half-day program.”

Across the city at Medicine Hat Community Preschool, which offers only daycare services and not pre-Kindergarten classes, the enrolment drop-off has been a little more worrying, admits office manager Lisa Burnett.

“Over the last year, we had a turn in the economy, and most people are opting out of paying out just for (standard) childcare,” says Burnett. “It’s too expensive. They can’t afford it; so we are seeing way more people not even enrolling. We don’t even have an active wait list right now.”

Burnett agrees more dayhomes opening in the city in recent years s likely one factor in the drop, but the economy is also still pretty flat.

“The parent portions for daycare funding are creeping up to like $300 per child even if you are fully subsidized in Medicine Hat,” she explains. “We are still getting interest with infants, but all of the other levels you can pretty much have them walk-in on all the programs.”

Montessori Preschool owner Dana Cook says she too has noticed a demographic shift with the downturn in the economy, but her enrolment numbers have remained quite strong in spite of it.

“We had a little bit of a shift last year because of the oil patch struggles,” Cook confirms. “Families were moving and that but we were able to fill in because we had that wait list. We are not struggling to find kids right now. I don’t know if it’s because we have a Kindergarten here, but we have a wait list and we are at capacity.”

Cook too wonders if oversaturation in the marketplace may be a factor hitting other preschool and daycare facilities in the city.

“So many centres have opened up in the past couple of years here in town, and it might be reaching capacity,” she says.

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