Are our kids falling behind because they can’t access full-time kindergarten or nursery schools?
It's a huge idea that could help thousands of kids get a head start on learning -- while potentially producing double-digit education tax increases.
Winnipeg School Division trustee Mark Wasyliw tabled a motion Monday night -- to be debated Oct. 7 -- calling on the province's largest division to implement full-day nursery and kindergarten beginning a year from now and fully by 2018.
"It's time," Wasyliw declared Monday afternoon.
'The results are shockingly good to support this. These (Ontario) kids are much more prepared for school'
Motions cannot be discussed by the school board until at least the meeting following their tabling, but Wasyliw said in an interview Ontario has produced great results in students' social and learning development by going full-day, every day in both nursery and kindergarten.
"The results are shockingly good to support this," he said. "These (Ontario) kids are much more prepared for school."
Wasyliw said he thinks he has the votes to support his idea in principle and send it to the administration for a full study. He'd ideally begin implementing the full days for little kids next September, starting with schools in the lowest socioeconomic areas.
"We need to take five years to implement it in full," he said.
St. James-Assiniboia School Division and Brandon School Division have full-day kindergarten in a handful of schools, but had to find the money within their budget.
The province does not fund nursery at all, and only funds half-days of kindergarten. "We have to be prepared to do this on our own," Wasyliw cautioned.
"Nursery costs $6 million for half days" and every penny comes out of WSD property taxes, he said.
There were 1,863 nursery school students in 2012-13 in the division, and 2,342 kindergarten students.
"It's a culture shock too. If everyone had children (in full-day school) at age four, you'd see the numbers climb" with more kids enrolled, he predicted.
WSD classrooms are already under space pressure with growth in French immersion and with the province's capping kindergarten to Grade 3 at 20 students by 2017, he pointed out. That's a lot of additional classrooms needed.
"We don't see any direction from the province" on capping nursery class size, Wasyliw said.
However, hiring more teachers would take nursery to around $12 million a year, he said.
Doubling the teachers required for full-day kindergarten would add about 117 new teachers, or require part-time teachers to become full-time.
By 2018, with all those new teachers and additional classrooms, trustees could have to jack up property taxes by more than 10 per cent or look for budget cuts elsewhere.
It will be worth it, Wasyliw predicted.
Most kids in nursery are also in daycare, he said. "You're dealing with play-based learning. Their day is going to be as long as it's been.
"We can make sure they're not starting from way back."
Are our kids falling behind because they can’t access full-time kindergarten or nursery schools? Join the conversation in the comments below.