Arlene and Leanne are Education Assistants (EAs) in Cobble Hill, a small community in the Cowichan Valley. Together they staff the first before- and after-school program operated directly by School District 79. Their work provides critical childcare spaces for families in the Cowichan Valley, and offers kids a welcoming and safe environment where interests and learning are advanced through informed programming and play.

The work of these two EAs represents an underutilized model for school-aged care that mobilizes the knowledge and experience of EAs, who commonly work only during the school day. Their program also makes better use of existing school spaces and structures to deliver high-quality, affordable childcare integrated with daytime programming.

By providing before- and after-school care both Leanne and Arlene are able to connect more with kids in the school. Leanne, who runs the before school portion of the day, enjoys getting to know kids better one-on-one, and appreciates being able to support kids who would otherwise be alone well before the school day starts. For Arlene, who works in the afternoon, the program has meant better connections with the kids, and an opportunity to develop programming and activities tailored to their interests.

Both Leanne and Arlene have heard from parents about how valuable this program is to local families, and how urgently the community needs more childcare spaces. Parents also shared how much they appreciated being able to drop their kids off at school for a full day with district staff, avoiding the uncertainty and complexity of multiple daily transitions between facilities and care providers.

Before- and After-School Care in Schools: a key missing piece of BC’s childcare system

There is a critical shortage of school-aged care in almost every community in British Columbia, and while families continue to struggle to find care, a solution is at hand. The very model demonstrated by Arlene and Leanne could be implemented in every school district, with thousands of new spaces created quickly using staff and facilities that already exist.

Not only is this one of the fastest ways to open new, much-needed childcare spaces, integration into the existing public system ensures high-quality childcare, with fewer transitions for kids and programming informed by daytime learning. For parents this model means one convenient drop-off and pick-up location, and the security of knowing their children are safe and receiving the social, emotional and educational support they need.

More about childcare month

May is Childcare Month and CUPE BC will be celebrating the amazing work by members who provide this vital public service in communities across B.C. Please enjoy our features about CUPE members and the passion they bring to their work, and learn more about our campaign to build the best possible system of childcare for British Columbians by visiting