Six-year-old Ethan Podolsky can’t wait to start Grade 1 next week and go to school all day for the first time. And his mother, Elissa, hopes her 3-year-old daughter, Lauren, will also get to spend all day at school when she starts junior kindergarten next year.
“I’m a big proponent of all-day kindergarten and I know my daughter will be ready,” Podolsky says of the province’s promise to introduce full-day learning for 4- and 5-year-olds next fall.
But will Ontario schools and daycares be ready?
And will Queen’s Park also provide the so-called seamless day — that integrates childcare with learning from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. — as early learning adviser Charles Pascal recommended in June?
With Ontario’s economy in the dumps and elementary teachers quibbling over who should work in the classroom, supporters of Pascal’s plan to transform local schools into community hubs for kids from birth to age 12 are nervous.
“The province has been very quiet. And frankly, that’s been a worry,” said parent advocate Annie Kidder of People for Education. “We need to see a commitment to the full vision that Charles has laid out that sees the whole child and the whole family in an integrated way. And we need to see how (the province) plans to proceed.
“If we just take a piece of this, it isn’t going to cause the change that’s needed,” she said.
Pascal calls for teachers to continue to provide a half-day of instruction, with childcare workers covering the remainder of the school day and any before- and after-school care parents may need. The school-day portion would be publicly funded while parents would pay a modest fee for the rest, he suggests.
For students from Grades 1 to 6, schools would oversee after-school childcare when at least 15 families request it. Municipalities would oversee new childcare centres in schools for families with kids under age 3.