Daycare that operates 7 days a week launches for parents who need more flexible hours

A Calgary daycare operator is offering something new for the growing number of parents in the northeast who need more flexibility and access to child care that falls outside of typical hours.

The company, 1st Class Child Care, just opened a centre in northeast Calgary aimed at parents doing front-line jobs, shift work or retail/sales positions, which often require working weekends and evenings.

The newly opened centre at Rotary Challenger Park operates seven days per week from 6:30 a.m. till 7:30 p.m. 

Some parents say it will be a game changer for families who are struggling more than ever to find flexible child-care options during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re trying to do something new and innovative in the city,” said owner and director of 1st Class Child Care, Anita Barron. 

“Between this location and the one we’ve got in the southeast, we’re offering what we think is Calgary’s first seven-days-per-week daycare with extended hours,” said Barron.

Founder of 1st Class Child Care, Anita Barron, says her new northeast Calgary centre at Rotary Challenger Park was a response to what she was hearing from the community about the need for more flexibility around child care. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

She says many parents in the northeast work non-traditional hours in households where both parents need to work. Some are immigrants and refugees lacking the strong family networks that other families often rely on for child care.

“It’s important to the entire city, but in the northeast we found there is a demand, for sure. We’ve reached out to the Calgary Police Service just down the street as well as the Peter Lougheed Hospital, and in our southeast location we also have the South Health Campus,” said Barron.

“The northeast community has expressed, with the everyday needs of families and dual incomes being required, that this is something that’s needed,” she said.

Barron says initial feedback from parents and the community has been positive, hopefully translating to a busy new centre.

Jennifer Hosie is a single parent with two daughters. She manages a homeless shelter for youth, and her working hours can be anything but typical.

“It’s so, so important for essential workers and shift workers. In our city, we forget so many people are not working 9-5 Monday to Friday jobs,” said Hosie.

“It’s pretty much life-changing for me. I have a really different schedule that doesn’t always work for my daughters,” Hosie said.

“It’s going to change things so much, and going through the pandemic has made everyone realize that essential workers are so important, yet we don’t provide child care for those times,” said Hosie.

Jennifer Hosie says the option of seven-days-a-week child care will be a life-changer for parents like her who work different hours and shifts. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Hosie says at a time when people are increasingly changing jobs and schedules as well as trying to work from home, having added flexibility when it comes to child care is more important than ever.

“The seven-day option certainly could apply to me,” said another single parent, Elizabeth Ly.

“To have that flexibility would be huge,” she said.

Ly says as a recently single mom she’s had to modify her schedule and be extra resourceful to balance her full-time job with a busy life at home. Her extended family members are all in Eastern Canada and help is hard to come by. 

“We’re all having to be flexible with COVID, and you can’t just have anyone come into your home in terms of babysitters and child care. It makes things more difficult,” she said. 

Ly says she can’t believe seven-day child care hasn’t been an option for Calgary families before now.

“I think this is something that’s been needed for a very long time, and I think there’s going to be a lot of happy families,” she said.

Both parents believe greater flexibility is something other day-care operators in other parts of the city will eventually have to start providing with changing priorities, working hours and careers along with a fundamental shift in what working life looks like now compared with before COVID.

“We need to look more at caring about child care and supporting parents and families,” said Hosie.

Barron says she’s expecting a busy opening few weeks at her new centre.

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