Kindergarten cash crunch might send teachers off site

SEE VIDEO http://www.ottawasun.com/news/ottawa/2010/12/02/16405836.html

Sending kindergarten teachers to off-site daycares could be the solution if the public school board isn’t given enough money from the province to renovate or build new schools to accommodate the third round of Ontario’s full-day kindergarten program.

So says the former chair of the Ottawa Carleton district school board.

“We haven’t heard from the ministry yet how much money will come with that rollout,” said OCDSB trustee Cathy Curry.

The board needs at least $5 million for the third year of the Early Learning Program.

The ministry of education’s website lists 45 schools in Ottawa which will be offering full-day kindergarten in the next few years.

About half of them began the program last September.

Curry said at the end of the next rollout the board will add 15 more — and with 120 schools in total, that’s only halfway through.

Six new classrooms cost roughly $5 million to build, and Curry said that’s why funding for 2012-2013 is a concern.

A spokesman for the ministry said the final sites for year three will be announced in the spring, and then the board will receive money to retrofit or build classrooms.

“Adding on double the number of kindergarten rooms will mean that potentially we’ll have to build new schools. That’s $12 million,” she said.

A possible solution, Curry said, is keeping kids at off-site daycares and sending teachers there to join the early childhood educators already running the programs — if the provincial government is open to the idea.

And at least one major childcare centre is on board.

“We’ve stated our interest in working with the ministry and the OCDSB,” said Terry MacIver, executive director of the Children’s Place, adding the response has been positive.

Curry said assistant deputy minister Jim Grieve helped set up the Kanata research park family centre, which has been running early learning this way for 12 years.

Around 1,000 people are on the family centre’s waiting list.

But the McGuinty government is aiming for seamless childcare where kids are dropped off and picked up at the same location, and that may not happen if teachers are sent out to daycares.

Curry said she hopes the ministry offers the board some flexibility.

“Full day kindergarten is being phased in over a five-year period to allow for the capital investments that are needed to accommodate all students in schools,” said ministry spokesman Gary Wheeler.

The Catholic school board isn’t commenting on funding for the program until further details are released.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

Kindergarten cash crunch might send teachers off site

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