The little people will be taking over local elementary schools this month, if the implementation of full-day kindergarten is any indication.
Along with a second kindergarten teacher, Greater Trail public elementary schools now have two classrooms and a second batch of learning tools to use for full-day kindergarten.
School District 20 received $75,000 in funding from the Ministry of Education to help outfit new classrooms in preparation for the program that’s new to the area.
While St. Michael’s Elementary School was one of the many in the province to take the plunge into all-day learning last year, it was the only local school to sign up before the change became mandatory this year.
“Traditionally, in the old way, you’d have a morning kindergarten class and an afternoon kindergarten class,” said Bill Ford, SD20 director of instruction. “Those kids just used the same materials and same centres, the teachers just prepared them for the next batch of kids – not anymore.”
“The biggest challenge is some of our parents have been a bit wary about what does it mean for my kid to be in a school all day?
“What is that afternoon piece going to look like? Does it mean the learning outcome for kindergarten has expanded?”
The program has not changed at all; kindergarten still focuses on play all while teaching kids the fundamentals.
“Before it was just so compresses that they were finding that a lot of teachers were rushing, this time there’s no new curriculum being added, there is just more time to deliver and it will be more in depth for the kids,” said Fruitvale Elementary School principal Brian Stefani.
“Having them go more in depth into their learning, can do nothing but benefit,” he added.
Stefani is taking the “community approach” to the change, ensuring his teachers, staff and students are looking out for the newbies on campus.
The kindergarten kids will ease into their new schedules on a graduated entry.
“Our Grade 1s coming in this year are basically kindergarten kids and for the first month of September they’re getting used to doing the full-time schedule and we have lots of experience with that so I don’t think it’s going to be so different,” he added.
The nine kindergarten teachers in Greater Trail have been in communication with those seasoned in the province to find out what works and what kind of challenges are ahead.
Bus runs have been reduced this year, as no more afternoon trips are required to pick up the half-day students.
But the district will be spending more on this program, with double the teachers to staff and a loss in funding from the government.
In the past, kindergarten kids did not receive fulltime equivalent funding from the province because they were part-time students. Though this increased funding will cover off the cost of new teachers, the district will actually lose money from the kindergarten program because it will receive a reduced amount for funding protection that is given for declining enrolment.
“Our kindergarten teachers are quite supportive of this because the job is extremely challenging,” said Ford. “They’re going to get to know those kids better and they’ve got more time to go deeper into the learning and all the materials.”