Local elementary schools are having to undergo renovations in order to accommodate full-day kindergarten programs coming on stream here.
Both the Upper Canada District School Board and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario are introducing full-day kindergarten in all of their schools beginning in September and public board chairman Greg Pietersma said the program has put a demand on space.
“We're looking at solutions now,” he said
“I don't think any of the problems are unsolvable; there are issues and they were going to come either this year or next year.”
The Ministry of Education introduced full-day kindergarten in 2010 and expects all schools in the province to have the program running by September 2014. Pietersma said the only school in the board having a serious problem finding space is Winchester Public School.
Schools in both boards will look at reorganizing space or adding some sort of addition to handle the influx of students in the new school year.
The province has committed $1.4 billion to help its school boards with renovation and addition costs.
Charlotte Rouleau, superintendent for school effectiveness for the Catholic school board, said some schools will have to wait until 2014 to get their renovations, with the way ministry funding is divvied up.
“Right now, we're able to accommodate everybody. It doesn't mean that everybody will have the accommodations done this year; some renovations will occur next summer,” Rouleau said.
St. John Bosco Catholic School will be one of the schools getting their renovations completed next year, she said.
Most schools just require minor changes, she said.
“Sometimes, they just need to renovate an area classroom to make it ready for little ones, so they'll add cubbies and whiteboards,” she said.
“They might add a washroom or put two classrooms and turn it into one classroom.”
Rouleau stressed that all of the renovation and addition costs are fully funded by the Ministry of Education and will not cost the Catholic board any additional money.
However, the school boards are responsible for the costs of hiring new teachers to staff the added classes.
“What we're doing is ensuring that we will have teachers to staff all of our kindergarten classrooms,” Rouleau said.
“There will be qualified teachers for all of our classrooms.”
Pietersma said the public school board left the schools where full-day kindergarten would be hardest to implement until last.
He said all school boards were instructed to do that by the ministry.
“So, it's not a surprise that all of a sudden, there's a crunch,” he said.
“(We were told) to pick off the easy ones and the ones that had space issues, to hold them off until the end.”
The McGuinty government introduced full-day kindergarten in 2010, with all schools in the province to be compliant by 2014.
Classes are staffed by qualified teachers and early childhood educators.