Teachers welcome strides toward full-day kindergarten

Minister expects challenges for 2016 start

Ashley Fitzpatrick afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com
Published on August 28, 2014
Education Minister Darin King (left) and Eastern School District CEO Darrin Pike share a laugh at an update announcement for full day kindergarten. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Connie Ivany has been working as a teacher since 1987 and has taught kindergarten for 16 years. On Wednesday, she said it is time for Newfoundland and Labrador to introduce full-day kindergarten.

“Parents will be happy, children will be happy and teachers will be happy,” she said, stepping out of “Play the Kindergarten Way,”

a two-day teacher’s workshop in St. John’s focused on early liter-acy and “play-based learning.”

Full-day kindergarten is slated to start in the province in September 2016.

Ivany said the added time kindergarten teachers will have will be a blessing — providing more breathing room for activities that benefit children in both their general development and preparing them for further steps in their formal education.

Ivany was with a few dozen other teachers for the training session in St. John’s, at the District School on Strawberry Marsh Road.

Education Minister Darin King and senior school board and teacher representatives, along with support staff and reporters, interrupted the session for an update on where administrative preparations for full-day kindergarten stand.

King said the start date is a commitment. About 140 teaching positions will be created. But not all school buildings will be ready for the start.

Of about 190 schools in the province, it has been determined 163 may undergo some interior renovations to accommodate the full-day kindergarten plans. Six schools will need larger additions of modular classrooms or a building extension. Site visits must be completed for other schools, with plans yet to be finalized at 21 locations.

In some cases, unfinished renovations were forecast to lead to classroom counts higher than the provincial cap. In response, schools are planning for what King said were temporary team-teaching situations, with more than one teacher assigned to a classroom.

He has committed to no more than 28 students per class and no more than 14 students per teacher.

“Of the 190 schools, we’re probably talking about fewer than 20, maybe even fewer than 15 schools, where we’ll change our teacher allocation to one to 14,” he said. “And in that instance, I can assure you that those students are going to have a treat, because they’re going to have great teachers working together in a very unique and interesting situation.”

Even with the space and construction wrinkles, the province is not prepared to hold back the program launch. Mainly, King said, schools are never in a static state when it comes to numbers, demand on space and construction requests.

“The other option would be to delay for a year or two or three, in which case you don’t have universal, full-day kindergarten in the province. You have it for some people for some areas and not in others, and you have students who are missing out on the opportunity of full-day kindergarten.”

Joanne Maher sat through the statements around the start of the program. She is an early childhood educator and director of Max Preschool.

She told The Telegram the steps being taken seem to be the right ones.

“We believe that children learn through play. So as long as it’s play-based, and developmentally appropriate practices are used, we think it’s a great idea,” she said.

As director of Les P’tits Cerfs-Volants, early childhood educator April Picco deals with children as young as two years old, preparing them for kindergarten and later grades. She said full-day kindergarten is a benefit, particularly if professionally there can be greater collaboration between kindergarten teachers and early childhood educators.

Ivany said water tables, sand tables, books and paints are at the ready and she’ll gladly take on the full-day classes.

“My only issue in my school (Humber Elementary) is kindergarten classrooms require a bathroom. That could easily be taken care of, with an addition to the classroom,” she said.

“Infrastructure and all these little bumps in the road ... that always comes with change.”

The provincial government budgeted $30.6 million over three years for school infrastructure, teacher training and learning resources specific to the work required for the implementation of full-day kindergarten in 2016.