Moving VAST to Eighth Avenue will place new barriers in the way of their clients’ educational pursuits, Hummingbird Daycare, says chairperson Laurie Hurst.
Hummingbird provides childcare and support services through the Young Parents Program to young parents in Port Alberni.
“We found out about the planned move during the public information meetings, just like everyone else did. We were surprised,” Hurst said.
Hummingbird used to be located on Burde Street by the old Alberni District Secondary School (ADSS) but is now located on Wallace Street behind Wood Elementary School. The program has helped more than 60 people who have graduated from VAST, Hurst said.
Options the school district could consider include relocating VAST to Wood Elementary or to the Boy’s Project facility on Anderson Avenue across from the existing VAST. “We’d hoped that VAST would remain in proximity to our daycare or at least remain on this side of town,” Hurst said.
Hummingbird’s board of directors has discussed the matter and has requested to meet with School District 70 trustees or at least make a presentation at their next meeting.
Hurst outlined the board’s concerns in a letter to School District 70 chair Larry Ransom.
Transportation is one concern. Presently, people can walk between VAST and the daycare. The move will force clients to use the city’s bus system. Because transit only runs hourly, it requires them to leave an hour early each from home and school thus reducing their number of hours in the classroom and potentially impacting their graduation, Hurst noted.
As well, many mothers who are clients are still breastfeeding their children. With Hummingbird located close to VAST their education can be combined with breastfeeding. Moving VAST across town will eliminate this option and potentially prompt young mothers to stay home instead of enrolling in school.
Moving VAST across town will also negatively impact those clients who live on limited incomes. Many VAST students already live near the daycare and VAST. Only one client out of 13 has a car. Those clients also access services such as doctors, dentists, public health unit and the income assistance office. If VAST moves then clients will spend more time on the bus getting to and from daycare and VAST, and may choose instead not to go to school.
VAST and daycare officials have worked for 20 years to remove barriers to educational success for their clients, Hurst said.
“It is very difficult to see that more barriers are being created by the relocation of VAST to the Eighth Avenue (Elementary) School location,” Hurst noted.
Calls to School District 70 chair Larry Ransom weren’t returned.