St. Michael’s, Robert Moore next to offer full-day JK

Peggy Revell

FORT FRANCES—St. Michael’s School and Robert Moore School here will be the next locations in the district where full-day junior kindergarten programs will roll out.
The province selected these schools to offer the program starting in the fall of 2011, following the inaugural roll-out that will see the program start at St. Patrick’s School and North Star School in Atikokan this fall.
“We’re thrilled to be able to have the kids full-time every day,” Mary-Catherine Kelly, director of education for the Northwest Catholic District School Board, said about the move towards full-day junior kindergarten programs.
“We’re thrilled, most of all, that it’s going to be a wonderful academic experience for children,” she enthused.
“We feel that we have a chance to really develop the whole child, and having them every day we will see them [progress] socially, emotionally, intellectually, and, from a Catholic School perspective, spiritually,” Kelly added.
The new Robert Moore School was designed with the early learning program in mind, noted Heather Campbell, director of education for the Rainy River District School Board.
That included two additional classrooms for full day, every day junior and senior kindergarten programs, as well as the new technology that will be installed.
“The Pascal Report speaks to the importance of before- and after-school programming for our earliest learners,” Campbell said, referring to the report written by Charles Pascal on full-day learning, which is the basis behind the move by the province to implement full-day JK across Ontario.
“Giving them a great head start in their schooling, and providing early intervention, if necessary, it will certainly help youngsters to improve their reading, writing, and math skills and create a smoother transition to Grade 1,” she reasoned.
The full-day program will have both teachers and early childhood educators in the classroom.
As part of this full-day plan, the province also will be implementing programming so parents can enrol their JK-aged child for extended hours before and after regular school hours within the same school facilities—for a fee.
The province expects full implementation of the full-day program by 2015.
“We’re busy working for 2010 with North Star,” Campbell said about the upcoming school year. “And certainly looking at the revised kindergarten program with its emphasis on play.
“We’re [also] looking at the new employee within our system—the early childhood educator­—and are really excited about the partnership between teachers and the ECEs for early learning,” she added.
 As well, the local public board has been learning from the best practices of those boards across the province that have similar program in place prior to the province’s move to implement full-day early learning programs.
“And I think that we were well-equipped, seeing as we’ve had full-day, every day SK for many years, and certainly this is a next step for us,” Campbell remarked.
While preparing to pilot the program the first year at St. Patrick’s in Atikokan, preparations soon will be underway for St. Michael’s here so it will be ready for full-day JK in the fall of 2011.
“Knowing that [St. Michael’s is] the school up front, we’ll have a year to work with our co-terminus boards and our day care providers to determine how best we manage the day care portion of this programming,” noted Kelly.
“We still have some work to do, but we’re certainly excited about being able to offer it to the Fort Frances community.”
The current program has JK students coming to school twice a week and then alternate Fridays, which the Catholic board has been funding itself.
Funding from the province now will be for full-time staffing, as well as ECE teachers, said Kelly.
The board also will be receiving funding so renovations and upgrades can be done to classrooms so there will be more kindergarten space available at the school for the 2011-12 year.
The local Catholic board has a history of offering full-day kindergarten in the north, Kelly said.
“And in our Catholic schools, we’ve always supported that for a very long period of time without the financial funding,” she explained.
“So now we’re really grateful to be able to get the funding to support what we believe is the right way to go to support families and children at the beginning of their career, and we’re welcoming all of our students into the full-day program,” Kelly added.
The decision to select Robert Moore as the second public board school for the full-day JK program to roll out came after consultation with community partners, explained Campbell, which showed there was an interest—and a need—in the Fort Frances area.
Working with the public board, the Catholic board wanted to ensure they would be in the same community at the same time, said Kelly, referring to St. Michael’s also being chosen for the 2011-12 year.
“We feel that the students are going to benefit and parents are going to appreciate it,” Kelly remarked, noting St. Michael’s is a school with a lot of students.
“A lot of working parents have a lot of day care needs in our community, so we wanted to ensure that we were trying to offer the full-day program,” she explained.
(Fort Frances Times)