From heads to shoulders, knees and toes, kindergarteners can count on a lot of learning.
And in Beach-area schools, teachers will soon be counting many more kindergarten classes, as 12 public and Catholic schools are scheduled to add full-day kindergarten this September.
“We’re excited,” says Rita Gallippi, principal at Adam Beck Junior Public School, where construction crews are busy adding two new kindergarten classrooms on the school’s north side, and renovating a third one inside.
Next fall, Adam Beck will have three English and two French full-day kindergarten classes. An early parent survey shows Adam Beck will likely partner with a third-party daycare for before- and after-school care as well, which usually runs from about 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For the children, who will turn four or five by December, Gallippi said the all-day program is a fun, engaging way to get ready for Grade 1.
Parents have lots of questions, but generally, Gallippi said they are excited, too.
“They know they can go off to work and their children will have a full-day program, plus before- and after-care if they choose it,” she said.
The coming school year is the last part of a four-year roll-out of full-day kindergarten across Ontario. Only a handful of Beach schools made the switch to full-day in the first three years, since most of the schools had to build extra classes or retrofit old ones to get ready.
Crescent Town Elementary was the only local school that switched two years ago, meaning it now has graduates of full-day kindergarten in Grade 1.
“It’s a big adjustment, but we’re seeing a lot of good things because of it,” said principal Tammy Ross.
Grade 1 was previously the first time children were in school all day. It’s a big jump, and some of the younger ones found it hard just to stay awake.
“We see the kids settling in faster in September, and we’re noticing in Grade 1 that the kids seem a little bit more confident, mature, and able to handle a lot more,” said Ross.
Sheila Cary-Meagher, the trustee for Beach and some East York public schools, said local schools were lucky not to switch to full-day kindergarten in the first wave of the changeover, when provincial rules seemed to change every couple days.
“We didn’t get our first one until the third year,” said Cary-Meagher. “By that time, the first two horrible years had ironed some of it out, but it wasn’t all easy.”
While Adam Beck is getting new brick-and-mortar classrooms, and Earl Haig Public added three new rooms last year, Cary-Meagher said two more schools, Kew Beach and Gledhill, will have to make do with portables for now.
At one point, she said it looked like schools needing more classes might get pre-fabricated, modular additions, but they were turned down for their high price tag and limited potential for renovation. Still, Cary-Meagher said overall the new additions and renovations at public schools are going well.
“Actually, this is the first time I’ve felt really comfortable that they’ve done proper planning ahead of time,” she said, noting that enrolment is expected to rise as the children of baby-boomers are now starting families.
Angela Kennedy, trustee for local Catholic schools, said building additions was not an issue, but St. John’s and St. Denis are doing some renovations work as they get ready to join St. Brigid in having full-day kindergarten next year.
“The Catholic schools in the Beaches have more capacity than, for instance, the schools in Etobicoke and the centre of the city,” she said, since fewer Catholics are immigrating to southeastern Toronto than in previous years.
Even with the on-site daycares at several Beach schools, Cary-Meagher said Beach parents have to be extra-forward thinking if they want to have their children in all-day care.
“If you don’t get your paper in when the kid is born, you’re not getting in,” she said. “It’s stunning.”