Parenting program looks to relocate in Big Rock School

Okotoks: Parent Link Centre closes now while looking for bigger space

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jan 10, 2013 11:03 am

Okotoks parent Nicola Stothart, with sons Daniel (left) and George, hopes the High River Parent Link Centre will soon be able to offer programs in town again.
Okotoks parent Nicola Stothart, with sons Daniel (left) and George, hopes the High River Parent Link Centre will soon be able to offer programs in town again.
Don Patterson/OWW

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Big Rock School could open its doors to a program intended to help parents guide their children through their early childhood years.

The High River Parent Link Centre may offer programming this spring in the school after recently moving out of its former location in Okotoks. The centre closed its Okotoks program at Mountain Shadows Recreation Centre at the end of 2012 and is hoping to move into Big Rock School.

However, town council will need to approve changes to Okotoks’ land-use bylaw before the move can happen.

Dayna Brentnall, the centre’s regional coordinator, said demand for the service has grown to the point the site at Mountain Shadows Recreation Centre was no longer suitable.

The centre currently isn’t offering programs in town, but she said they will still work with parents in Okotoks to meet their needs as best as they can.

“We could offer full-time programming in Okotoks if we had the space and ability to do that,” she said.

Brentnall said there is a large demand for the centre’s services in town with more than 200 families registered for the program in Okotoks and attendance at the program averaged between 30 and 50 families a day.

They have approached the Foothills School Division about being able to use a space in an Okotoks school and they are looking to offer the program full-time during daytime hours in a room in Big Rock School.

However, the Town’s land use bylaw doesn’t allow childcare programs to be run out of school sites. She has asked the Town to change the bylaw to allow them to move into Big Rock School.

Based in High River, the centre offers programs in communities across the foothills, including free drop-in programs, support for parents and referrals to other programs.

The centre is based out of the Charles Clark Medical Centre in High River and uses different locations in communities between Claresholm and Black Diamond including the Blackie School.

Brentnall said they are looking for other potential locations in Okotoks, however, there isn’t much suitable space available and what is available would cost much more than they were paying at Mountain Shadows. She said their rent for the space at Mountain Shadows amounted to less than $18,000 per year and was covered by a grant from Okotoks’ FCSS department.

“In order to get a space in Okotoks, freestanding where we can offer full-time programming, it’s going to cost us at least $30,000 to $40,000 [per year],” she said.

Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson said the Parent Link Centre provides a good service for the community and it could be an excellent fit to locate in Big Rock School. However, he wants to hear from Town administration when it reports back to council before a decision is made.

“I think the type of activities they’re promoting would fit in very well with the school,” said Robertson.

Drew Chipman, Foothills School Division assistant superintendent, said the centre would fit in well at Big Rock School. He said the division is willing to let the Parent Link Centre use a room in the school if the Town approves changes to the land use bylaw.

“It’s natural when you look at parents and kids,” he said. “They have pretty specific guidelines as to how the program runs.”

Chipman said the opening of Westmount School has freed up a room in Big Rock School that can be used by the Parent Link Centre until the school’s enrollment grows to the point the room is needed for students.

He said parents would use a separate entrance located next to the room considered for the program. He said there wouldn’t be any need or reason for them to be in the rest of the school.

Chipman said the division hasn’t figured out how much the school division would charge the Parent Link Centre to use the classroom and this will be determined if the Town approves the bylaw changes.

Okotoks parent Nicola Stothard said it’s an invaluable resource that will be missed until a new location reopens.

“I regularly go there with my kids and it’s just such a fantastic place,” she said.

She said the former location wasn’t’ appropriate for the program and moving to Big Rock School would be a big improvement.

“As long as they’re open somewhere that’s safe, that’s warm and has adequate facilities for the kids, it would be perfect,” she said.


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