By SYLVIE BERRY Staff Writer
Change is coming to the young lives of future kindergarten students, but they won’t be the only ones feeling the effects.Announced earlier this month, four- and five-year olds all over the Niagara Region will have the option to attend a full-day of learning come September.
The provincial government will be launching full-day early learning programs for roughly 35,000 kindergarten students for the 2010-2011 school year. Ontario hopes to expand the program through stages and have all schools participating by 2015.
The programs were created as a plan to strengthen education throughout the province and produce a better-educated workforce. Education Director of the Niagara Catholic District School Board John Crocco says, “Trustees, staff and principals are very enthusiastic for the program beginning in September.”
Niagara Catholic School Board will be part of the initial phase-in with 14 programs being introduced into eight schools. St. Mary and Holy Name Catholic Elementary schools in Welland will receive the new programming. “The longer students are in the school, the better they are through their journey.
It will be a smoother transition into Grade 1 also,” says Crocco. Niagara Catholic School Board has been working towards optional full-day learning programs for senior kindergarten students since 2004 and implemented 26 programs at 20 schools for the 2009-2010 school year.
The all-day learning classrooms will have one elementary school teacher and one registered early childhood educator working together with students to help develop emotional, social and academic skills. In addition, schools will offer before-and-after-school programs led by ECEs.
Parents can enrol their child for a fee. “You’re really getting the best of both worlds. There’s a combination of the best skills and the best knowledge working with young children,” says Allison Soave, co-ordinator of the Early Childhood Educator program at Niagara College.
Soave’s been in the child care field for over 40 years and has experienced many changes. She sees nothing but benefits coming from the early learning program. “Any kind of early learning in child care programs is obviously a wonderful experience for young children because it helps them to grow, to learn and it helps to focus on areas where there may be weaknesses,” says Soave.
District School Board of Niagara will introduce 30 early learning programs to 11 schools this September, none being in Welland. The public board has also already implemented all-day learning programs in 17 senior kindergarten classrooms. They were not available for comment.
With these changes being brought forward for the young generation, the spotlight has touched the sometimes-snubbed and disrespected ECE profession. The recognition and respect deserved will grow as the province foresees 9,500 ECEs hired across Ontario in the next five years.
Although there will be a number a positions to fill through the school board, they may not be available to recent graduates of the ECE program. Experienced ECE workers already in the field may choose to leave their current positions to seek employment at the schools.
Cynthia Patul, 46, Niagara College second-year ECE student, is hopeful for the new programming, but believes “that our chances [of employment] are slim to none.” Leona Zaniol, 38, also a second-year ECE student at the college, agrees with Patul, but “would love to get in at the schools” regardless.
“I think it would offer a better quality care perspective, educational and from an ECE point of view.” Pat Eversden, manager of the Niagara College Child Care Centre, says that they will be little affected by the new programming, since the majority of kindergarten and after school students come from Quaker Road School, a school not on the list for new programming in September.
“My anticipation is that it will be status quo for us this year,” says Eversden. Parents interested in enrolling their child in the early learning program can do so during February’s kindergarten registration month.
For more information on all participating schools, please call 905-641-1550 for the public board and 905-735-0240 for Niagara Catholic.