BLT services face cuts

Many services being offered at Parksville’s new Family Place will be eliminated, with other local literacy services, due to funding cuts.

The new Munchkinland Exploration Centre at Family Place

The new Munchkinland Exploration Centre at Family Place

Many services currently being offered at Parksville’s new Family Place will be eliminated in June, as well as other local literacy services, due to funding cuts.

Thirty five thousand dollars ($35,000) that was promised to Building Learning Together (BLT)  has been pulled and District 69 Community Literacy Co-ordinator and Director of BLT, Deborah Davenport, said the news is devastating.

“There’s never easy answers to funding,” she said. “Over all the years we’ve worked very hard to maintain the level and to grow the funding that we’ve had. But this is the first time I’m kind of going hmm‚ now what?”

BLT is a local coalition of community partners formed in 1999 to support literacy and build connections between school and family in the pre-school years.

For three years, the Ministry of Education has funded a provincial literacy organization called Decoda, created to support Vancouver’s bid for the Olympics. With $2.5 million, the organization was able to send $35,000 each to B.C. communities to fund a literacy outreach co-ordinator.

The ministry reduced that funding to $1 million last year, and Decoda added $1.5 million from its reserves to address the shortfall. This year, Decoda can not make up the $1.5 million. This will eliminate funding to 55 B.C. communities, including this region.

District 69 is unique with regards to literacy because for the past 13 years the area has already had a community literacy co-ordinator, thanks to commitment to literacy from the local school board and the collaboration of two ministries.

So instead of funding a literacy co-ordinator with the money, Davenport put it into local programming. The loss of funding means there will no longer be a Technology Learning Centre at Family Place, no BLT2Go Outreach Bus, the Band in a Box won’t visit local seniors’ lodges and the Words and Rhymes program with the middle schools and senior secondary schools will be cancelled.

A number of intergenerational programs will also be cancelled, which includes Community Action Networks (CAN) where seniors and youth work on programs for young kids.

BLT board member Deidre Bjornson said in a community with a high amount of seniors, local intergenerational programs have been very successful. Davenport added that feedback BLT receives from these programs has been incredible.

“The impact from the reports we get back from both our youth and our seniors is life changing. It’s not minimal, it’s significant.”

The cuts will also reduce services to the three local Munchkinland play centres for young children and operational support for BLT.

Davenport said if District 69 was in the same position as most districts in the province, programs and services would have been eliminated a couple of months ago.

Raising funds to keep the programs running will be very difficult, as BLT already receives funds from a number of local businesses and the economic environment is very difficult, Davenport said.

She is hoping the Ministry of Education will step up to the plate, but with recent announcements of fiscal challenges in that ministry, the prospect is unlikely, said BLT board member Aileen Fabris.

“It’s very sad for this community that now Family Place is in existence, the thing we hoped for for so many years, is going to fold because there’s not money to fund part of it.”

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