With full-day kindergarten now the only option at B.C. public schools, educators, parents and pupils are making adjustments – not only to their schedules, but their mindsets.
This is the first school year that all-day kindergarten is offered at all elementaries in B.C. The full-day program was phased in beginning last year, offered in 82 Surrey schools.
Parents have mixed feelings on the longer school day, says Surrey District Parent Advisory Council co-chair Bob Holmes, .
“Some parents love it, others not so much,” Holmes said earlier this month.
He reasons children entering kindergarten are at varying developmental stages because while many might be five years old, some are still only four for the first few months.
“A full-day/half-day option would have been nice.”
Holmes questions the B.C. Education Ministry’s timing of the move to full-day kindergarten.
“This is not a change that parents were clamouring for, so it might have been better to get through the current period where (school) districts are making cuts every year and use the funds for other school needs, then introduce full-day kindergarten when the economy had turned around.”
At Prince Charles Elementary in Whalley, teacher Olga Canlas was busy rearranging furniture and preparing her brightly coloured kindergarten classroom the day before the arrival of her little learners.
Full-day kindergarten is not new to her. For several years now, Canlas has taught ESL, special-needs and aboriginal students who have had access to the all-day program.
“They love coming to school,” she explains. “One or two might say I don’t like school – if work is involved.”
She has gauged the effects of full-day kindergarten on her students.
“They have better reading comprehension at the end of the year – and their printing has improved,” says Canlas.
Calling it the “gift of time in kindergarten,” Canlas says the 2½-hour, half-day model only scratches the surface of the curriculum.
“By the time you factor in recess and rest time, it doesn’t give them much time to play and learn in the classroom.”
The full-day, six-hour kindergarten program gives students more time to explore and get used to being at school, she says.
Paula Gelmon, co-ordinator of early learning and early literacy with the Delta School District, echoes Canlas’ sentiments.
“We have learned that it’s a positive experience for kids,” she says. “Teachers have so much more time to go over the curriculum and expand on ideas.”
As of last month, 4,650 kindergarten students were registered in the Surrey School District. Overall, enrolment this year in Surrey is about 70,000 students, an increase of approximately 900 from last year.