Kindergartens try out extended hours

Ninety schools in the Toronto District School Board are getting ready to welcome kindergarten pupils for full-day classes this fall.

Seventy-one of those schools, including 30 in Scarborough, and another 50 in the Toronto Catholic District School Board offer the program already. The province has committed to phasing in full-day kindergarten in all Ontario elementary schools by 2015.

“There are parents that love the idea of full-day kindergarten,” said Corrine Pech, an early childhood educator (ECE) at the St. Rose of Lima YMCA Childcare Centre. “I love the idea because you’re preparing them for what’s really going to happen in Grade 1.”

Monica Dillon, a secretary in the Catholic board, said she’s not too fond of the idea.

“If you look at educational laws, they don’t even have to be in school until the age of six but now we’re making them go all day [at an earlier age],” she said. “It’s the parent’s job to prepare [younger children] to be here.”

According to Ontario’s education ministry, third-parties like the YMCA are running before- and after-school programs in a third of schools offering full-day kindergarten.

Rob Armstrong, senior vice-president of YMCA Ontario, said the YMCA community has been a “strong supporter of the government’s ground breaking full-day learning program.”

“The government and school boards are looking for more ECE positions,” Pech said. “They want it to be more like a YMCA curriculum where … they are trying to incorporate more play.”

Pech said she believes full-day kindergarten will benefit children.

“There’s one thing that kids have in common: all kids play and when they play, they learn,” she said.

Full-day kindergarten classrooms will each have a teacher and an early childhood educator who will help construct a curriculum of play-based and academic-based learning activities.

“Teachers and ECEs were all trained differently: teachers are more academic but we’re more developmental so it blends really well together,” Pech said.

The full-day program isn’t fair to the teachers, the ECEs or the kids, Dillon said.

“You’re asking for a 4-year-old to listen to someone talk for six hours?” she said. “To me, that’s a long day. To me, they need more of a break.”

The program is also a hassle for parents trying to keep their kids to a set schedule, Dillon said.

“I want my child to be able to go to bed at 7 p.m.,” she said. “But if you’re giving them a nap at 1:30 in the afternoon, they’re not going to bed at that time.”

Full-day kindergarten is optional. Children can still be enrolled part-time. Before- and after-school programs are also optional and are offered for a fee.

Fall 2011: Extended Kindergarten Schools in Toronto
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Observer Radio News: The Toronto District School Board wants full-day kindergarten and a before-and-after care program.

So the board is asking parents what about this?

Observer Radio News’ Christina Cheng has more.

[audio:http://ondemand.centennialcollege.ca/CCradio/news/CCheng_kindergarten.mp3]