A local kindergarten teacher says children who attend full-day kindergarten every day have a significant advantage over those who attend an alternate day or half-day kindergarten program.
Lindsay Pratt, who teaches both kindergarten programs at Albert Lacombe School, said her full-day kindergarten students are grasping concepts much quicker than those in the alternate day program.
“The kids are excelling. They are picking things up quicker and faster,” Pratt said.
“Their literacy skills are far beyond where they would normally be at this time of year in the half-day or the alternate day just because they are getting that double exposure,” she said.
Pratt said students in the full-day program have a greater phonemic awareness and better social interaction.
“They’re just more prepared for Grade 1,” she said.
While the full-day program offers the same kindergarten outcomes as other programs, Sandy Cimino, principal at Neil M. Ross, said children have more time to explore and build on what they’re being taught.
“What it does allow is a time to slow down and guide the play and allow the experience to happen,” she said.
“Many kindergarten teachers that I’ve talked to say they’re rushed from one activity to the another. They just feel there is such a short amount of time.”
Last September, several schools in St. Albert began offering optional full-day every day kindergarten in addition to regular kindergarten programs.
“We haven’t heard anything but positive feedback from teachers regarding the impact this is having on kids,” said David Keohane, superintendent of the Greater St. Albert Catholic School Board.
“Nothing but strong commentary about the growth that we’re seeing in students who are choosing to access the program and we can only assume that it’s going to be growing in scope and demand on that basis.”
Keohane said parents should not be concerned that children not enrolled in the full-day program are at a disadvantage.
“There is no disadvantage. There is a core curriculum that all students have access to and that is the measure of readiness for Grade 1,” he said.
Barry Wowk, superintendent of St. Albert Protestant Schools, said he believes the majority of parents are still choosing the half-day program.
“I just think there is a certain advantage to having a regular schedule as a parent and I think it depends on the parent’s work schedule as well,” he said.
“Part of it is tradition, that’s what people are used to. Some kids get tired in the second half of the day.”
In Alberta, full-day, every day kindergarten is not funded by the province, meaning that parents must shell out $300 a month to register their children in the program.
“The real bugaboo in all of this is that it should be funded by the government. It’s so unfair. It’s a cash thing for a lot of families,” said Julian DiCastri, principal at Albert Lacombe.
He said he’s spoken to several parents who would like to register their kids in the program, but can’t afford to.
“You hear about all these educational advantages and it’s a real disparity. I have a problem with that,” he said.
“In fairness, every kid should have a leg up.”
Registration numbers varied across the city. Alberta Lacombe had eight students as of September while Bertha Kennedy had 18. Principal Joan Tod said she doesn’t know if they’ll have to add a second full-day class next year.
“That would be a nice problem to have,” she said.
Elmer S. Gish currently has 10 students in the program but principal Duncan Knoll said he expects to have between 15 and 20 next year.
“This year we already have a large number of advance registrations for full day so we’ll definitely be offering it in September,” he said.
Like others in his field, Knoll agrees the full-day program gives kids an advantage heading into Grade 1.
“It just gives them more instructional time and a better chance to learn and they’re in front of professional educators for a longer period of time.”