"They don't want people to live outside the city"

Parents and guardians in the villages around Ljusvattnet are directing strong criticism at Skellefteå municipality. The reason is that some children are at risk of not having a place at the preschool in Skråmträsk. "The municipality doesn't seem to want people to live out in the villages," says parent, Petter Knyck.

"A temporary solution would help," says Linn Normark.

"A temporary solution would help," says Linn Normark.

Foto: Wilhelm Sandelin Anton

Ljusvattnet2023-02-22 08:15

The sun has barely had time to rise, but it is already full steam ahead in the village hall in Ljusvattnet. About ten families are there - the children draw, do crafts, read and play while the adults drink coffee. The venue is buzzing with life.

The meetings here in the community center are organized once a week and are a clear example of the community and commitment that exists in the area. Many families with young children have moved to the villages around Ljusvattnet in recent years.

But this commitment to rural life comes with a downside. A group of parents and guardians has calculated that this year there are as many as 15 children who want to start preschool in Skråmträsk, about 10kms north of Ljusvattnet. But this autumn there is only room for nine new children at the preschool.

Ljusvattnet's village hall is busy.

The parents are worried that the other children are at risk of being placed at another preschool in the municipality.

–There are many children out here in the villages. We want them to grow up together and attend the same preschool. It is specifically because of the community that we have chosen to live here, says parent Linn Normark.

A number of parents and guardians from Skråmträsk, Ljusvattnet, Järvtjärn, Bröntjärn, Nyliden and Bjurfors have joined together and sent a letter to Skellefteå municipality, in which they argue for an expansion of preschool places in Skråmträsk. Temporary modules could be a short-term solution, they say.

"They don't seem to want people to live out in the villages," says Petter Knyck..

– We understand that you cannot build a new preschool in six months. But something must be done, says parent Fredrik Stenberg.

Linn Normark agrees:

– The municipality may be concerned that this increase is only temporary. That's why a temporary solution would be a good idea to begin with.

"A temporary solution would help," says Linn Normark.

Several parents and guardians also feel that notification of the childrens' placements at preschool takes far too long, which adds to the concern. Petter Knyck says that he had to pester the municipality several times to find out where his children would be accommodated.

– In the end, they managed to "squeeze out" a place for us in Klutmark. In any case, it is better than it being in the city, he says.

The parents believe that the municipality is actively uninterested in implementing any kind of change. Since the number of children born is centrally registered, they believe that the municipality has had plenty of time to deal with the problem.

- In town, you may have to drive five minutes longer if you get a place at another preschool. Out here it is about fifty minutes longer. There is a risk that you need to rearrange your life, perhaps even change jobs, to make it work, says Fredrik Stenberg.

Given Skellefteå's expansion, is it not understandable that a shortage of pre-school places may arise?

– Obviously. But it feels like their fundamental strategy is for people to move to the city. They don't want to expand rural preschools; they just want to centralize everything. They simply don't want people to live out here, says Knyck.

The sun has barely had time to rise and the village hall is full of kids.

Kerstin Steinvall is head of the department for preschools in Skellefteå municipality. She writes in a reply to the parents and guardians that it is regrettable that notification of placement is delayed and that there is a goal that guardians should receive an offer no later than one month before their guarantee date.

To Norran, Steinvall says that she understands the parents' concerns and that the best thing, of course, is if you can keep the groups of children together.

– But in the societal transformation we are experiencing, that will be a challenge, because we don't really know where all the children will live in the future. We usually talk about three major areas; competence, quality and capacity. We need to expand in several places in the municipality and must be able to see sustainability over time.

Creating a temporary modular solution can be easier said than done, says Steinvall. She emphasizes that several departments are responsible for these issues, but offers an explanation:

Kerstin Steinvall, head of preschools at Skellefteå municipality.

– We have a responsibility to ensure that there is a financial balance. An extension can take time because the matter must be researched, it must be discussed in committee, then building permits must be applied for, modules procured, and it must be delivered and built. All of that also comes with costs.

The need for preschool places is reviewed all the time, says Steinvall. According to her, the municipality plans so that everyone can have a place as close to home as possible.

– When we look at the population forecast, we see that there is really no need for expansion in the area right now, but that can change, says Steinvall.

But that doesn't add up with what the parents say, does it?

– We plan capacity and staffing both in the short and long term. There are only two children who have not been given a place in Skråmträsk during the spring. And then we have two children on the way, who are due now in the spring. So in total there will be four children and it looks like we will be able to accommodate them all in Skråmträsk now until the autumn.

One parent believes you don't want families to live out of town.

– That is absolutely not the case. I understand that as a resident you do not see the statistics that I have. But our local unit simply assesses that it is not a sustainable increase in children to expand in Skråmträsk.                                                                                                                                                                                        

According to the parents' and guardians' own calculations, there are several children who will not have a place at the preschool in Skråmträsk this year.
According to the parents' and guardians' own calculations, there are several children who will not have a place at the preschool in Skråmträsk this year.