The first day of the 2009-10 school year means that Halifax area parents no longer have to pay to have their children supervised over the lunch hour, and the city’s school board says its ready to make the switch.
In fall 2007, Former Education Minister Karen Casey mandated that all school boards will have to provide the service for free starting this September, after some parents started protesting the $200 annual fee for the Excel child care program.
Until now, the school board has only provided free noontime supervision for bused students, students who need to be at a certain school because of a specific program and students who were deemed not to have enough time to walk home and back.
“We expect that when schools open (today), that all students who wish to stay for lunch will be able to stay for lunch and they will be supervised,” Halifax Regional School Board spokesman Doug Hadley said.
But it comes at a cost.
Hadley said the ratio of lunch monitors to students “may rise” in some schools, adding the board anticipates spending $1.8 million to pay for the supervision, up about $600,000 from the 2008-09 school year.
School board superintendent Carole Olsen has cautioned in the past that universal lunch supervision could take valuable resources out of Halifax area classrooms.
Hadley added that a handful of schools are cutting back on lunch hour lengths “to manage the supervision of students,” with a maximum reduction of 15 minutes.
The school board is still looking for lunch monitors, Hadley said, adding parents should let schools know whether or not their children will be staying for lunch so supervision can be properly planned.
Also new this school year are several courses, such as new options for the mandatory high school physical education credit, including a Grade 11 fitness leader course and a yoga course. Education Department spokesman Peter McLaughlin also said the province has expanded its co-operative education program.