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Full-day kindergarten would bring big costs

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Winnipeg School Division's plans to try full-day kindergarten and nursery in as many as four schools next fall could have huge implications.

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Winnipeg School Division's plans to try full-day kindergarten and nursery in as many as four schools next fall could have huge implications. Photo Store

It's only $225,000 in a proposed $374-million budget.

But Winnipeg School Division's plans to try full-day kindergarten and nursery in as many as four schools next fall could have huge implications.

The Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine and a handful of other public schools around Manitoba have full-day kindergarten already.

But for the province's largest division, already paying for half-day nursery entirely out of school taxes, conducting a successful pilot project would have enormous implications.

The pilot project is the lone new spending in a status quo budget that would see education taxes rise 3.6 per cent, about $40 on a typical house assessed at $171,130, said board chairwoman Suzanne Hrynyk and finance chairwoman Cathy Collins in an interview Wednesday.

"We haven't chosen (the schools) yet," said Collins, though trustees have already heard from parents at more schools than the pilot project can finance.

"We'll see who's got the space to accommodate that," Hrynyk said.

Collins said WSD has hefty numbers for full implementation of full-day nursery and kindergarten in every elementary school within the division -- $12.5 million annually for teachers' salaries, $4.3 million for materials and $31.5 million in capital costs for construction of additional classrooms.

Meanwhile, it's status quo this year, with no cuts to teachers or programs.

"Parents are pleased and relieved," Collins said.

"We won't be reducing any positions," Hrynyk said. "We haven't received any feedback (advocating cuts), nor is there any appetite in the boardroom."

The trustees are proposing to dip into reserves for $3 million to upgrade Wi-Fi in all the high schools, Hrynyk said -- that leaves less than two per cent of revenue in reserve, far below the five per cent accountants generally believe an institution should carry.

"It would go into all the high schools. We need to improve it," Hrynyk said.

The division dropped about 200 students this year, and expects enrolment to be stable in September.

Collins pointed out there's virtually nowhere for new housing to be built in WSD to add students, and even developments such as downtown condos get tax breaks as an incentive to build.

In a system in which quality of education is heavily dependent on the assessed values of property, the typical home in WSD is assessed at less than half the $372,000 average in Pembina Trails School Division.

"It makes it tougher," said Hrynyk. "You have homes typically and historically assessed at less."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2014 A9

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Updated on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 7:35 PM CST: Changes photo.

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