More pre-primary classes rolled out, including to Queens County

by Lighthousenow Staff

After having been left out of the initial launch of pre-primary classes, Queens County will now have access to the province's new program.

Among the new pre-primary classes opening in local communities this fall are ones slated for North Queens Community School in Caledonia; Dr. John C. Wickwire Academy in Liverpool; and Petite Riviere Elementary School in Port Medway.

Other schools along the South Shore joining the program are Hebbville Academy in Hebbville; Bayview Community School in Mahone Bay; Newcombville Elementary School in Newcombville; Centre scolaire de la Rive-Sud in Cookville; and Pentz Elementary School in Pleasantville.

The province is adding a total of 130 new pre-primary classes this fall.

"The first year of the pre-primary program has been a success, with more than 800 four-year-olds and their families benefiting from this early learning opportunity," said Premier Stephen McNeil in a news release.

"We want our children to have a strong foundation for school regardless of where they live or what their socio-economic background. Pre-primary provides just that."

The program will be rolled out province-wide by September 2020.

The Liberals promised in the last election to offer universal pre-primary to all four-year-olds in the province, saving parents $10,000 each year.

The program is meant to help transition children into a school environment and will be offered to each child for one year.

It will be free, voluntary and open to all children who are at least four years old by December 31. Registration will begin immediately.

Previously, in 2017, Kim Masland, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Queens-Shelburne Kim Masland, had expressed concerns about the lack of transportation before and after school, and that Queens County was left out of the pre-primary roll out, along with Victoria County.

"Never did I think that Queens County would be completely left out, I'm extremely disappointed."

The program has also come under criticism from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU), which published a position paper on it, taking issue with both the consultation process involved and with some of the ways it's operating.

"Teachers and administrators are generally frustrated with the launch of this initiative, and are questioning if it meets the goals of the public school program," said NSTU president Liette Doucet in a recent press release.

"When students lose access to a valuable learning hub, like their school library, to make room for a pre-primary class it impacts the overall learning environment."

The press release also referred to the roll out of the program as rushed.

However, Education Minister Zach Churchill told LighthouseNOW earlier this year that the province had good feedback on the four-year pilot project run of the pre-primary program.

"The feedback was extremely positive from parents, kids, the ECEs and principals that were overseeing its delivery. It's based on research and evidence and we think provides an inclusive, play-based environment for our kids that will have an impact on them as they transition into the academic learning environment," he said.

Churchill says the childcare sector only has the capacity to care for around 25 per cent of preschool aged children and that it's not available in all communities so the government is working to identify where programs are needed.

Some private pre-primary operators have spoke out against the program, but so far, Churchill says there have only been three that have indicated an enrollment or staffing issue. He says his government is willing to work with and invest in some private operators to make sure everyone has access to early childhood education, but that a public system is necessary.

Families who live within a school community that is offering pre-primary and wish to register their child for the program, can contact their local school board to learn more about the registration process.

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