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Pilot project provides before- and after-school care in kindergarten classrooms

Millstream Elementary is among 21 B.C. schools joining a pilot program that combines kindergarten classes with child care.
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VICTORIA, B.C.: April 26, 2013 - GENERIC PHOTO of school zone traffic signs in VICTORIA, B.C. April 26, 2013. (ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST). For City story by Stand Alone

Millstream Elementary is among 21 B.C. schools joining a pilot program that combines kindergarten classes with child care.

As part of the Seamless Day Kindergarten project, children who require before-school care will arrive early to their kindergarten classrooms, which will be staffed with an early-childhood educator, said Sooke School Board chairman Ravi Parmar.

The children then begin a regular school day and the early-childhood educator will stay until about the midpoint, working with the teacher.

At that point, another early-childhood educator arrives and works for the rest of the school day, then provides after-school care, so the kindergarten students start and end their day in the same space. “Children aren’t moving,” Parmar said. “The teacher’s there for the portion they need to be.”

Because the program simply requires the use of classrooms outside of school hours, no new construction is needed, said Parmar, noting child care has been “a hot-button issue” for the school board, with some child-care centres closing because of staff shortages.

Using existing classrooms means new child-care spaces can be created quickly, said Katrina Chen, minister for child care. Chen, a single parent, said she relies on child care to do her job.

The expansion is costing $1.2 million.

The program, which is already running in the Qualicum School District, is also coming to the Gulf Islands School District and the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District.

“What we’ve learned from these early pilots is that families really appreciate the convenience, safety and accessibility this child-care option provides,” said Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside. She said the program gives children continuity throughout the day and provides them with “a strong sense of belonging” in their classrooms.

“We will continue to look for more opportunities like the Seamless Day Kindergarten pilot that rely on the strength of our education system to support our youngest learners in the province toward a successful and happy educational experience.”

Parmar said he is looking forward to seeing the program in action.

“I think it’s going to be a huge success and if that’s the case, I certainly hope our board looks at expanding it after the pilot program is done,” Parmar said. “I think for a district like ours, which has significant space challenges, the ability to offer that within our classrooms is great.”

jbell@timescolonist.com