OSOYOOS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL NOW OFFERS FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN
OSOYOOS TIMES-September 15, 2010
By Paul Everest – Osoyoos Times
A phone call from Osoyoos Elementary School on Sept. 9 informing her that the school will be offering full-day kindergarten put parent Angela Stuart in a very good mood last week.
“Sweet” was the word she used to describe the news.
“I’m very pleased about this.”
Stuart’s five-year-old daughter Nerys started attending full-day kindergarten at the school on Sept. 13 and that makes life a little easier for Stuart.
As a single, working mother, Stuart said the ability to put Nerys in full-day kindergarten cuts her need for childcare in half.
She added that her parents would have had to look after Nerys if the child was to stay in half-day kindergarten at the school.
In February, School District 53’s board of trustees passed a motion to allow full-day kindergarten for all elementary schools within the district beginning this September with the exception of Osoyoos Elementary School.
The provincial government had pledged funding for a total of 111 full-day kindergarten spots within the district but the district’s board was anticipating there would be 151 kindergarten spots between the district’s five elementary schools for the 2010/2011 school year.
Because of the projected 40-seat surplus, it was decided that Osoyoos would keep a half-day kindergarten schedule, with full-day classes beginning next year.
Osoyoos Elementary was the school chosen to sit out this year for full-day kindergarten because its students showed significantly less vulnerability levels on the province’s Early Development Indicator, which measures areas such as language development, social skills development and physical development, compared to other district schools.
Juleen McElgunn, the district’s superintendent, said the district was able to make the surprise announcement last week that full-day kindergarten would be offered at Osoyoos Elementary because district enrolment figures are down.
While the district was anticipating 151 kindergarten-age children throughout the South Okanagan and Similkameen regions, only roughly 125 such children enrolled this month.
At Osoyoos Elementary, McElgunn said, there was a projection that 41 kindergarten-aged students would be coming to this school this September, but the actual enrolment right now is 28.
Since the district is so close to the province’s 111-student funding threshold, she added, the district’s board decided it could now offer full-day kindergarten at all district schools.
McElgunn said parents were being notified of the change last week by the school and families have the option to enroll a child in the full-day program or keep them in the half-day program.
The first day of full-day kindergarten at Osoyoos Elementary was Sept. 13.
As for the roughly 14 extra full-day seats that still need to be paid for above the province’s 111-student commitment, McElgunn said the district will cover the costs from its operational funds.
Each full-day spot costs roughly $67.40, she said, and the province has provided $750,000 to this district to fund the program.
McElgunn said she believes the reason for the decline in enrolment is due to ongoing economic challenges.
She said that in times of recession, families move from rural areas to urban locations and she has heard from principals throughout the district that families are moving to Penticton, Kelowna and Vancouver.
The district is down 62 elementary school students and the district’s current total student enrolment is 1,287, down from an anticipated enrolment of 1,349, McElgunn said.
Bo Macfarlane, the principal of Osoyoos Elementary School, said parents of kindergarten students came into the school on Sept. 10 for an orientation session and most were happy with the announcement that the full-day program will now be offered.
Having the full-day program gives teachers more time to work with the kindergarten curriculum, he said, and allows children to have more time for structured play and learning.
The school’s vice-principal, Lisa McCall, will be heading up the school’s full-day program, Macfarlane said, and there will be a straight kindergarten class and a mixed kindergarten/Grade 1 class.
Macfarlane added that the school will be bringing in extra staffing for the full-day program including extra teachers two days a week.
There will be two full-time and two support teachers running the kindergarten program.
This is the lowest kindergarten enrolment the school has had in years, Macfarlane said, but it is hoped that numbers will rebound next year.
He also said that if any parents don’t want to place their children in the full-time program, the school will work with them to accommodate their wishes.
Stuart said she spoke to a few parents at the orientation session on Sept. 10 and most were “OK” with the changes to the school’s kindergarten program, but they did not seem to be as happy with the announcement as she was.
She added that enrolling a child in full-day kindergarten should be looked at on an individual basis because children who have never been out of the home on a long-term basis might have some difficulties with the program.