PROVINCE GRANTS DISTRICT 53 THREE-QUARTERS OF REQUESTED FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN SEATS
OSOYOOS TIMES-February 3, 2010
By Laurena Weninger – Osoyoos Times
“We weren’t the only district in the province that asked for everything,” said Juleen McElgunn, superintendent for School District 53, about the across-the-board request they made for full-day kindergarten. “What happened was they (the Ministry of Education) had a set number of seats across the province.”
In December, the board members of School District 53 received notice that instead of the 151 full-day kindergarten seats the district requested from the B.C. Ministry of Education, they will get 111 seats.
Last August, the government announced that, over the next two school years, full-day kindergarten will be implemented for all students in the province.
The program will kick in for about half of the province’s students as of September, 2010, with the program being offered to all kindergarten-aged students the following September.
But even though the provincial goal was to provide full-day seats for half of B.C.’s kindergarten-aged students this fall, McElgunn said the district’s was aiming to provide full-day kindergarten for all district students come September.
“As a district, we’re ready,” she said at a district board meeting last October in anticipation of the full-day program outlined by the province.
The ministry had asked each district’s board to submit a report by Nov. 1 about its preparedness to move toward the full-day program.
“We actually have room at all schools,” said McElgunn, also noting that in addition to available space, there is an adequate supply of available schoolteachers who can be hired to carry the new load.
But District 53 wasn’t the only district asking for more seats than the government was ready to offer.
McElgunn said board members were told that B.C.’s school districts requested 6,000 more seats than available.
Some districts got less than 50 per cent of the seats requested.
When it comes to funding, the ministry provides cash for each full-time-equivalent student attending in the district.
The amount of funding that will not be forthcoming due to the 40 spaces that have been denied to this district will equal $117,000.
“That’s a substantial amount of funding,” McElgunn said, adding that amount is just the basic funding.
On top of that, each student in the district requires a certain amount of money allocated in the district’s budget for supplies and other resources.
That means it is unlikely the board can make room in the budget to cover those additional costs and offer the full-day program throughout the entire district.
The fact District 53 is only going to be funded for 74 per cent of the desired seats means it’s decision-making time for the board.
“This is our challenge now,” McElgunn said. “How do we determine what this is going to look like?”
The district is putting the matter out to the public, in a series of open meetings, to get some input on how to structure the implementation of the full-day kindergarten.
On Feb. 10, at 7:30 p.m., the school board will meet in the Mini Theatre at Osoyoos Secondary School.
Along with discussing how to address the kindergarten issue, the board will also look at declining enrolment and this year’s budget at that meeting.
McElgunn said board members have started brainstorming options for structuring the kindergarten program in this district, but the list is by no means exhaustive.
One possibility is offering the program on a first-come, first-served basis.
Another is to select certain schools within the district that will offer full-day kindergarten and keep others at half-day.
“That is problematic too,” McElgunn said, explaining they could see an issue of parents wanting to transfer their children to those schools offering the full-day program.
District 53’s request for 151 kindergarten spaces was based on an enrolment projection calculated by looking at information including historical enrolment data, housing starts and transitions of students into and out of various communities.
The board will also be meeting to discuss this issue in Okanagan Falls on March 3, Keremeos on March 24 and in Oliver on April 7.