Division wants more all-day kindergarten

Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division says it would like to see more full-day, everyday kindergarten programs in its schools but can’t make that happen without additional space.

Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division says it would like to see more full-day, everyday kindergarten programs in its schools but can’t make that happen without additional space.

The board was provided with an update on the full-day kindergarten situation at Tuesday night’s regular meeting, with trustees expressing the need to continue monitoring the two schools that offer the program.

Full-day kindergarten began as a pilot project in St. Marguerite Bourgeoys School in Innisfail, Holy Trinity School in Olds and St. Teresa of Avila School in Red Deer in the 2012-13 school year.

St. Teresa cancelled its program for this school year due to a lack of space but the other two schools are continuing to offer it after the successful pilot, accommodating between 23 to 25 young students each.

“It got rave reviews that first year from parents, staff and children at St. Teresa,” said Kathleen Finnigan, associate superintendent for student services with Red Deer Catholic.

“Now, although St. Teresa no longer has the program, it is still meeting the needs of children that need that type of full-day programming.”

About seven children who have been identified as having those learning needs at St. Teresa do attend kindergarten for the full day, everyday.

The only difference is they have to interact with two sets of children, the morning class and the afternoon.

“So they get to know a lot of other children. But it’s still the regular kindergarten program,” Finnigan said.

Premier Alison Redford pledged during the 2012 election campaign that her government would make full-day kindergarten mandatory across the province within a year of being elected.

At the end of December, Redford said she couldn’t say when the move on full-day kindergarten will happen but that she still finds it an important action to take.

The province has estimated funding full-day kindergarten would cost $200 million a year.

Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island all offer full-day programs.

Finnigan said the board “really supports full-day, everyday” programming for kindergarten but has its hands tied when it comes to space and needs the government to boost its support.

“If we could put a full-day at St. Pat’s, we’d love to but their enrolment is really strong and they’re packed and they just can’t do it,” she said.

“Father Voisin may consider coming to us for it but we haven’t entered into those conversations yet.”

Father Voisin Elementary, the division’s new kindergarten to Grade 5 school, will open in Clearview Ridge in September.

A school interested in opening up everyday, full-day kindergarten would work with a senior administration team at the division to determine if the program would be an ideal fit for that school and community, Finnigan said.

“Parents really appreciate their children being in this type of programming because the learning goes deeper.

“There’s more of a connection with parents, the readiness skills going into Grade 1 are stronger, all that sort of thing.”

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com

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