Half of Ontario kindergarten kids in full-day by 2012

TheStar.com -Ontario/parentcentrl.ca/parent/education/early learning
October 6, 2010.   Kristin Rushowy, EDUCATION REPORTER

Almost half of Ontario kindergarten students will be in a full-day program by the fall of 2012, say ministry documents obtained by the Star.

The boost means 49 per cent of the province’s youngest students will be enrolled by that time, just three years into the new program and a jump from 20 per cent in 2011-12.

“. . . With this (third-year) expansion, the program will reach 49 per cent of projected kindergarten enrolment in Ontario,” or 122,018 of the province’s 4- and 5-year-olds, says a memo to directors of education from assistant deputy minister Jim Grieve.

In an interview Wednesday, Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky said that is indeed her hope.

“I think it’s fair to say that we’re very ambitious,” she said. “I’m hoping that we’ll have up to half our schools in Ontario providing full-day kindergarten when phase three is established . . . that’s what I’m looking for.”

The first phase of full-day kindergarten began this fall in 800 schools, taught by both a teacher and early childhood educator with a price tag of $200 million. Next year, with another 200 schools added, the cost will be $300 million.

This third phase, however, will come with a significantly higher cost given the surge in enrolment and the fact that 2012 is the first time boards can get money for additions and renovations to create extra space.

“I would guess that the vast majority of our schools will need capital funding, either to retrofit or to add on” to accommodate the program in 2012, said Janet McDougald, chair of the Peel District School Board.

Dombrowsky said the number of schools that have available space varies across the province. Boards have been asked to identify locations for the third year along with the type of construction needed before costs can be determined, she added.

Phase three schools will be announced by spring 2011.

Full-day kindergarten has come under some criticism for being implemented too quickly — from start to finish in six years — and without enough funding for what will eventually cost a minimum of $1.5 billion a year. The Peel public board is more than $1 million short this first year alone.

“As we’ve implemented it, we’ve come across different kinds of costs that we had not thought of,” said McDougald. “We had to expand a few parking lots in order to accommodate more cars, because we have more staff.

“Those are costs directly related to full-day kindergarten.”

Some parents have complained the half-day option isn’t really available anymore — despite what the government says — because children will miss out on curriculum if they are pulled out midday.

Boards must submit potential sites for year three to the ministry by Nov. 26. The memo says they must pay particular attention to “geographic distribution” because the program will be so widespread.

By 2012, boards will also be expected to run before- and after-school care for kindergarten students, where demand warrants, and not rely on existing daycares as they now do.

The York Catholic board currently has 14 full-day sites; all already had daycares located within.

“It’s our intention to continue to assess what we have in place now (with daycares), and we are well aware that in year three all boards will be asked to put in place board-delivered before- and after-care programs,” said Chris Cable, communications manager.

More full-day on the way

By 2012, or phase three of the rollout of full-day kindergarten, here is the number of students and projected number of classes for each of the 10 boards in Greater Toronto:

Durham public: 4,238/163

Durham Catholic: 1,196/46

Halton public: 3,614/139

Halton Catholic: 1,690/65

Peel public: 9,828/378

Dufferin-Peel Catholic: 4,472/172

Toronto public: 17,628/678

Toronto Catholic: 5,148/198

York public: 6,578/253

York Catholic: 3,354/129

Source: Ministry of Education

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