Since September, Jennifer Harris' daughter Kaitlyn has been going to preschool at Pinetree Community Centre three days a week - and loved it.
The young family had intended to sign up their four year old for another year this fall, but that all changed last Thursday, when parents were notified the program would be changing.
The plan for the city-run preschool is to shift focus to fitness and play rather than academics for the fall.
But the decision isn't sitting well with Harris, who said she and other parents are now left scrambling to make alternative preschool plans.
"The city needs to consult with the parents in the area before pulling a whole program out of the system," she told The NOW. The Coquitlam mother said parents were told a couple months ago there would be delays in registration, but that it was normal and it would go ahead by April.
Meanwhile, Harris said many of the major preschools are either full since registration was done in February, or more expensive than the city-run program.
"There was a lot of people who were very upset," she said, adding she moved to the Coquitlam Centre area a couple of years ago because she thought it would be family-friendly, but the expectation has fallen short.
But the city's community recreation manager Mary Morrison-Clark responded to The NOW via a three-page letter outlining some of the details of the new program and a response to questions on how the changes were handled.
The letter stated the new Play and Learn Program would operate similar hours and focus on learning through play and physical activity.
The new program is not licensed under the province's childcare regulations, but the city noted highly qualified staff would lead the preschool.
The city said it also meets or exceeds the safety and health standards without licensing, adding program planning "can be more flexible and responsive to families and the community without licensing."
Though the letter did say it was "regrettable" that formal written notice about the changes was not given until March, it pointed out parents were told in January the program was under review and there was a possibility it could change next year.
As for why the changes weren't discussed with parents prior to a decision, the city said it offers thousands of programs each year and consultation on each program is not realistic.
"Programs are evaluated on a regular basis both by participants and staff to ensure they are meeting community needs, have a balanced approach, are fiscally responsible and consider options already being provided in the community for the same service," the letter said.
There are currently 37 children registered in the Pinetree preschool.
The city said the affected families are welcome to register ahead of the general public for the fall 2013 program. However, Harris said she's not swayed by the response and is urging the city to reconsider the daycare decision.
She said most parents like her already have kids registered in sports or recreational activities, and the reason behind signing them up to a preschool is to ensure they're learning academic fundamentals before entering kindergarten.
Harris suggested the city should at least phase out the program by moving this year's three-year-old class to the four-year-old level and then eliminate the three-year-old class for 2013.
"Ideally, we'd love them to change their mind about keeping this program open," she said.
There are a total of 32 licensed preschools in Coquitlam providing for 720 children, according to a list provided to the city by the Fraser Health Authority.