Catholic groups have concerns over full-day kindergarten

  • March 23, 2011
While many people are praising full-day kindergarten, there are concerns over the costs as well as after-school care. (CNS photo/Mike Crupi)TORONTO - While Ontario’s full-day kindergarten program is in high demand and considered by several Catholic education groups an “investment” in the future, there remain concerns.

The provincial government introduced the full-day kindergarten program in September 2010 at about 600 schools across the province. By September 2012, there will be close to triple that number of schools offering the program.

Among the issues that need to be worked out are funding and after-school care, according to some Catholic groups. Dan Barrett, president of the Toronto Association of Parents in Catholic Education, says once the full-day kindergarten classes end for the day, making an arrangement for care afterwards can be “problematic.”

“Full-day (kindergarten) doesn’t make after care or day cares more sustainable,” he said, noting the shortage of day care spaces.

“The implementation of this program can have an impact on these day care providers. I’m hoping that won’t happen.”  

And although the program’s $1.5-billion price tag is steep, Barrett believes it’s worth “investing in the future.”

Nancy Kirby, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, said OCSTA supports the program but has identified some “definite gaps.”

“We agree with the benefits and applaud the government for implementing the program. (But) the funding provided does not match the actual cost,” she said.

Kirby said there are no capital costs allocated for the program each year which means boards have to incur these expenses for new equipment and supplies. More costs will also be incurred because boards and teachers have agreed to smaller classroom sizes compared to the full-day kindergarten program’s set class size at 26 students for one teacher. And many of the classrooms in schools aren’t large enough to accommodate this class size plus the teacher and early childhood education assistant, she added.

Yet Kirby noted that the program is a worthwhile investment for the next generation of students in Catholic schools. For instance, parents deciding upon a school could be attracted to a particular school because it offers the program.

“It’s a good program. At a young age, children are like sponges,” Kirby said.

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