Full-day kindergarten will roll out in 2016 as planned, it was announced Friday, and no significant changes to the program’s price tag have been reported.
Dale Kirby, minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, updated media about the plan’s progress after a tour of a demonstration kindergarten room at Holy Cross Elementary in St. John’s. It’s one of four such rooms across the province where teachers will avail of professional development over the coming months.
Kirby said a lot of people have been wondering if the plan to start in 2016 is on schedule, and he wanted to assure people it is.
“It’s a high priority to us. We consider it to be an investment in students and in the province, and we’ll be ready for September 2016,” he said.
The play-based Completely Kindergarten curriculum will be taught in 190 schools across the province, including both English-language and Francophone schools. There will be 140 new teachers hired.
In some schools where registration is high, team teaching will be in effect. That means more than one teacher will work together with a maximum student-teacher ratio of 14:1. Eight schools are already expected to use this teaching method, and others may be required depending on enrolment numbers.
“It’s a well-established collaborative approach to teaching we’re employing it in this instance because of space concerns. … These are temporary measures until we can alleviate those space pressures,” he said.
Kirby said some teachers have already been in the demo classroom for a look around.
“I’ve spoken to two who’ve been in here and they’re quite impressed with what they see. Full day kindergarten, from a pedagogical perspective, is really about allowing more time for the exploration of the learning outcomes that we have for kindergarten, so there’ll be fewer transitions during the day and more opportunity to explore those outcomes,” he said.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s dire fiscal situation — the province is facing an almost $2-billion deficit — will likely mean cuts elsewhere, but it will apparently have no damaging effect on the implementation of full-day kindergarten.
“Any savings was relatively minor, so it’s approximately $30 million in infrastructure, preparation, professional development. So that’s basically the same,” Kirby said. “And it’s a little over $13 million a year for the additional 140 teachers who’ll be hired for full-day kindergarten.”
Since the plan was announced in 2014, four schools have already received major extensions, and a dozen more will get, or have already received, modulars. About 100 classrooms will have to be renovated to accommodate the classes.
Kirby is one of the thousands of parents in the province with a child entering kindergarten next year.
“I think it’s great. I really believe all the things about the outcomes and the outcomes being better than they are for half day. You think about all that confusion for parents in all the transitions during the day, the coming in, the going out, going to child care and all, so that’s all resolved for parents,” he said.
“I think Year 2, we’ll have learned a whole lot from Year 1, right, so I think it can only improve over time.”
He said parents can get more information about full-day kindergarten at KinderStart programs.
The Completely Kindergarten curriculum guide can be accessed here.