Golden Ears Preschool may need a new home

The Golden Ears Preschool has been part of downtown’s landscape for years, since 1988, first out of the old Cam Neely arena...

The Golden Ears Preschool has been part of downtown’s landscape for years, since 1988, first out of the old Cam Neely arena, then the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre.

But next August, it could be hunting for a new home if it loses out in a competitive bid process for use of the city-owned space.

And that worries the non-profit Golden Ears Preschool Association, which counts on volunteers to help with the administrative chores.

“We’ve been there a long time,” says Blake Whitelaw, one of the directors of the association.

Successive generations have had their first few years of school there and one former student is now a director, while another former student did her teaching practicum there.

Whitelaw said if the preschool loses out on the bid and can’t resign a lease, it will have to look elsewhere. A new location could mean costly renos and rents higher than the $600 a month they pay now.

“There’s a whole bunch of unknowns for us right now,” said Whitelaw.

“It’s kind of scary, because we’ve been a partner with the city for 28 years. Especially for the teachers, it’s a real stressful situation.”

Currently, there are 51 pre-schoolers attending the school, open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. After those hours, the city uses the space for other purposes.

Whitelaw says the 800 sq. foot space is in a prime location and the lease amount is a good deal.

When the Leisure Centre was built, the pre-school space was specifically built for that purpose.

Danielle Pope, with Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows parks and leisure services, says that the lease expires for good in 2016.

“This was their last right to renew,” she said. “So typically, what we would do is go out to market.”

That’s to ensure fairness in the process, she explained.

The city is also in the process of hiring a consultant who will analyze the best use of the spaces within the Leisure Centre. The city will wait until that is completed before proceeding with seeking bids on the pre-school space.