All-day Kindergarten program set to launch

  • August 7, 2010
AjaTORONTO - With the dawn of the era of all-day Kindergarten for children three-and-a-half to six years old, Ontario will begin to see how much difference an early introduction to formal learning can make in the life of a child.

The program will begin in fewer than 600 schools province-wide when the school year dawns following Labour Day, but should be available in all elementary schools by 2015-2016. By September 2011 up to 50,000 pupils will be enrolled in upwards of 800 schools.

Full-day Kindergarten is part of the Ontario government’s Open Ontario Plan, aiming to offer children a strong foundation for future learning.

Nina Locke’s daughter Aja is excited to start senior Kindergarten this fall. Mom thinks it’s an idea whose time has come.

“I think it’s a fabulous idea. It’s great for the parents and the children,” said Locke.

The Toronto area full-day Kindergartens are:

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board:

  • Georges Vanier (Brampton)
  • Good Shepherd(Brampton)
  • Holy Cross (Mississauga)
  • Holy Family (Bolton)
  • Queen of Heaven (Mississauga)
  • St. Alfred (Mississauga)
  • St. Brigid (Brampton)
  • St. Catherine of Siena (Mississauga)
  • St. Leonard (Brampton)
  • St. Louis (Mississauga)
  • St. Mary (Brampton)
  • St. Peter (Orangeville)
  • St. Valentine (Mississauga)
  • St. Aidan (Brampton)
  • St. Bernard of Clairvaux (Mississauga)
  • St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Mississauga)

York Catholic District School Board:

  • Blessed John XXIII (Unionville)
  • Corpus Christi (Richmond Hill)
  • Divine Mercy (Maple)
  • Holy Family (Thornhill)
  • Holy Spirit Catholic (Aurora)
  • Kateri Tekakwitha (Markham)
  • St. Charles Garnier (Richmond Hill)
  • St. Clement (Woodbridge)
  • St. Elizabeth Seton (Newmarket)
  • St. Francis of Assisi (Woodbridge)
  • St. Francis Xavier (Markham)
  • St. Thomas Aquinas (Keswick)
  • St. Mary of the Angels (Woodbridge)
  • St. Raphael the Archangel (Maple)

Toronto Catholic District School Board:

  • Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
  • Christ the King
  • Holy Child
  • Holy Cross
  • Holy Family
  • Holy Name
  • Immaculate Conception
  • James Culnan
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe
  • Precious Blood
  • Sacred Heart
  • Santa Maria
  • St. Angela
  • St. Anthony
  • St. Antoine Daniel
  • St. Barbara
  • St. Charles
  • St. Dunstan
  • St. Elizabeth Seton
  • St. Francis Xavier
  • St. Ignatius of Loyola
  • St. John Bosco
  • St. Leo
  • St. Luke
  • St. Martha
  • St. Martin de Porres
  • St. Maurice
  • Stella Maris

Durham Catholic District School Board:

  • Holy Redeemer (PIckering)
  • Immaculate Conception (Port Perry)
  • Msgr. Philip Coffey (Oshawa)
  • St. Bernadette (Ajax)
  • St. Marguerite D'Youville (Whitby)

Halton Catholic District School Board:

  • Our Lady of Fatima (Milton)
  • St. Peter's (Milton)
  • Simcoe-Muskoka Catholic District School Board:
  • St. Paul's (Alliston)
  • St. Mary's (Barrie)
  • Marie of the Incarnation (Bradford West Gwillimbury)
  • St. Mary's (Collingwood)
  • Holy Cross (Innisfil)
  • St. Bernard's (Orillia)
  • St. Antoine Daniel (Victoria Harbour)
  • Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud:
  • Frére-André (Barrie)
  • Jean-Paul II (Whitby)
  • Notre-Dame (Ajax)

Other parents Locke meets in her job as a day care administrator are just as enthusiastic about getting their kids in school early, she said. Parents don’t look at it as simply tax-supported day care. It’s a matter of providing the best start for kids.

“Especially for children with special needs — if there are any kinds of issues for special needs children, they are identified earlier,” said Locke.

The idea that a full day of school might be too much for a four year old doesn’t make sense for kids that are already in day care from seven in the morning to six in the evening, said Locke.

“Our kids are here all day,” said Locke as she sat surrounded by kids in the Red Apple Day Care at Blessed John XXIII School in midtown Toronto.

“As long as there are caregivers and teachers and ECEs (early childhood educators) who are giving the kind of quality care in those hours that are not instructional, I think it will be OK.”

From the point of view of professional educators, earlier schooling is a good thing, said Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association president James Ryan.

“We think it’s good for children,” he said. “It will give them, especially those children from areas where they are economically disadvantaged, it will give them a head start.”

Some new teachers about to test drive a brand new program may have a few butterflies in their stomachs, but Ryan is confident the Catholic system will adapt well.

“In our system there are eight boards where it has been done before,” he said.

Ryan has run into a vocal minority of parents who believe too much school too early is bad for kids and for families. His answer is always that Kindergarten is optional. Parents even have the option of sending their kids just half a day.

Though some might regard it as a stretch, Ryan argues opening schools to four-year-olds is a pro-life thing to do.

“The fact that it will help out families in terms of day care who need that help, that’s a real advantage to people as well. Certainly as Catholics that is something we would want,” he said. “By making it easier, one could say from a pro-life position that making it easier to have children and to raise children in itself is a pro-life statement.”

Wraparound care is the only problem parents face, said Locke.

Originally the province envisioned schools providing early drop-off and late pick up by having ECEs work shifts from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the teacher in charge from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. But most boards are finding they simply don’t have the money to cover those costs and aren’t set up to collect fees to cover the extra hours.

Working parents are going to be stuck finding some form of day care or babysitting to cover the wraparound hours before and after school, said Locke. But as the program becomes entrenched, Locke is confident the school boards will figure out how to deliver wraparound care.

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