Mackenzie, 4, puts on a puppet show in her full-day junior kindergarten class at Convent Glen Elementary School. (Photo by Tricia Van der Grient)
Little bundles of energy float from one play station to another, colouring in pictures of Humpty Dumpty and playing pretend in the mini kitchen at Convent Glen Elementary School.
The 20 lively three and four year olds make up the junior group of the two full-day kindergarten classes at the school. It's the first in Orléans and part of a pilot program that was launched in 21 other schools in the Ottawa area last September.
"It's really amazing how they have gotten used to the longer day," says Rita Cardarelli, principal at Convent Glen. "At the beginning of the year there was a bit of a period of adjustment but having a set routine each day really helps."
The school started with one class of 32 students but split into junior and senior classes after enrolment skyrocketed at the small school. Both classes now have about 20 students with a kindergarten teacher and an early childhood educator (ECE) present in each.
"At first, especially with the junior class, there was an adjustment because depending on where they are coming from the kids have different socializing skills," Cardarelli said. "But that is to be expected in any kindergarten class. With full-day learning there is so much more time to build literary and math skills."
Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) trustee John Shea says parents who have enrolled their children in the full-day program at Convent Glen have said "nothing but positive things about it."
"It's hard to see right now what benefits students will get from it academically, but time will tell," he says.
In August some parents in Ottawa were upset when they learned extended daycare was not available through the schools, due to a lack in demand.
"Interestingly enough, I probably receive the most calls about transportation and the second most calls about daycare," Shea says. "It's tricky. The province says we need to run on a cost recovery basis. (…) But parents need to make daycare plans far in advance and spaces in the city are at a premium."
Shea says the difficulty comes when the board has to wait and see how many students are enrolled in the classes before seeing if there is enough interest to run the extended care program.
"I certainly understand the frustration expressed by parents," Shea says. "It's a very new program, and in the past I have criticized the (Ontario Ministry of Education) because I felt the program was rushed out. But now they seem to be doing slightly better."
A report from the OCDSB shows the board will have 171 full-day kindergarten classes operating in the 2012-2013 school year, accommodating 49 percent of the projected enrolment.
The report said the board anticipated that Ministry of Education funding, "will likely not cover all of these projected costs."
Fallingbrook Elementary is the next school slated to run the program in September 2011.
Six more east-end schools will be implementing the program in September 2012, including Orléans Wood, Maple Ridge, Heritage, Dunning Foubert, Forest Valley and Glen Ogilvie.