Full-day kindergarten program expanding
Three more schools within the Rainy River District School Board will begin offering the full-day Early Learning program this fall.
J.W. Walker School in Fort Frances, Donald Young School in Emo, and Sturgeon Creek School in Barwick will join Robert Moore School here and North Star Community School in Atikokan in providing the program for local four- and five-year-olds.
“It’s a really good idea to get the four- and five-year-olds together,” noted Al McManaman, acting Superintendent of Education for the board.
“It’s not a whole change in curriculum, but there’s a bit more stress on some areas of play-based learning, letting kids take some ownership and direction. . . .
“We think it’s a positive way to go,” he added.
McManaman said the transition into kindergarten is made easier for the four-year-olds. Since the classes are combined, they learn from the five-year-old students, many of whom already would have attended one year of Early Learning.
“We’re also able to do our screenings earlier, so we can find out where kids are [developmentally] and get them supports earlier,” he explained.
“I think that, in itself, is a huge benefit for children.”
McManaman also noted there are no additional costs to expand the Early Learning program, although more busing could be required, as well as additional Early Childhood Educators, who work in the Early Learning classrooms with a qualified teacher.
In addition, J.W. Walker will undergo some renovations to accommodate the full-day kindergarten program.
“It is a single-storey addition on the north side,” explained Travis Enge, manager of Plant Operations & Maintenance for the board.
“It will consist of a storage room, a bathroom, and will make the classrooms a little bigger so when we have the full-day kindergarten program going on, there they have a little extra room for doing their programs,” he noted.
The plan for the renovations is in place, with the architecture complete.
The contract currently is out for tender and it’s hoped work will begin April 1, with a mid-August completion date.
During the construction, the two senior kindergarten classes will be receiving their instruction in the school gym.
The classes will be set up with all the existing furniture and equipment, making them look and feel as close to the existing classrooms as possible.
No renovations are needed for Donald Young and Sturgeon Creek.
However, all three schools possibly could offer before- and after-school child care, as Robert Moore and St. Michael’s currently do.
“It depends on the needs of parents,” McManaman explained. “The schools are surveying parents to see if the need is there for that.”
Once the surveys have been completed and returned, the board will be able to determine whether any of the schools will incorporate the before- and after-school program.
Registration for all of the kindergarten programs throughout the district began this week. While many of the schools had planned open houses, parents are able to register their children at any time.
“The reason we ask people to register pretty early is so we can start configuring the classrooms and who the staff are, as well as start looking into the third-party before- and after-school programing,” McManaman said.
He added if parents have any questions regarding Early Learning or registration, they can contact the school.
“You don’t think about it but they learn so much in those early years—literacy, numeracy, self-regulation, and getting along with others,” McManaman said.
“All those skills we sometimes take for granted, they pick up quite quickly.
“It is a great opportunity for parents and children,” he stressed.
Following the implementation of Early Learning at these three schools, the final schools within the public board will begin offering the program in 2014.
These include Crossroads (Devlin), McCrosson-Tovell, Mine Centre, Nestor Falls, and Riverview (Rainy River).
Within the Northwest Catholic District School Board, St. Michael’s School here offers the full-day Early Learning program, as does St. Patrick’s School in Atikokan and Sacred Heart School in Sioux Lookout.
St. Joseph’s School in Dryden will begin providing the full-day program this fall, followed by Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton in 2014.