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  • Susan Flanagan

Full-day Kindergarten | The Kids are Alright | Oct. 4, 2011


The fact I have five children does not make me an expert on parenting. And having four in five years does not make my husband and I brilliant family strategists – not when you add another nine years later and end up with one entering university as another exits diapers. But it does keep things interesting.


Maybe that is why the Telegram editors have invited me to produce a parenting column based on timely issues. Once I`ve presented my weekly biased opinions, I invite you, dear reader, to tell me what you think. I’ll then go through the responses and include some of them in the following week’s column.


So here goes the topic for my first ever Transcontinental parenting column – full-day kindergarten. In fact, let’s call full-day Kindergarten, or full-day k, a critical election issue.


My sister, who spaced her children exactly five years apart so she would have one in school before the next one was born advised me to do the same. When my second guy entered kindergarten, his brother was only in Grade 1. But I had it all planned out that Conor would sign out Liam and walk him home from school so I wouldn’t have to interrupt nap time for the other two toddlers I had at home. Conor would be the youngest signer-outer in the history of the school but it did appear legal. It was a perfect plan until Liam broke his leg late that summer. So that fall I pulled a wagon with Liam and his full- leg cast from our house to Rennies River Elementary. I had Conor and Ryan each on one hand and baby Marie on my back. When I reached the bottom of the steep set of outdoor steps at the school, I heaved Liam out of the wagon - still with Marie on my back - and lugged him up the concrete mountain into the school where he scooched on his bum down the hall to his classroom. All the while I barked out encouragement at Conor and Ryan hoping they were following and thinking maybe I should have heeded my sister’s advice. And yes, thinking all the while that full-day kindergarten would be a good thing. Then I wouldn’t have to come back and do it all again two and half or three hours later.


Fast forward 14 years.


“You just want full-day kindergarten for Declan,” said my only girl earlier this month, referring to her youngest sibling, aforementioned surprise baby, who is due to begin kindergarten in September 2012. Although this would indeed be wonderful, I pointed out to her that if full-day kindergarten is introduced in this province it would never be in time for next year’s fall class. If the NDP were to get a majority, and they are known to surprise on the federal level, they have promised to pilot a full-day k program in certain communities outside St. John’s where space permits. So now that it’s too late for my sanity, why do I care if there’s full-day kindergarten or not?


Besides the academic and social benefits to the child, every parent finds a two and a half hour school session a pain in the butt. You blink and it’s time to turn around and go pick up your child. My cousin, a retired kindergarten teacher told me she never got a chance to finish the activities she had planned for her kindergarteners before the bell went. She forever had to leave a story or craft project unfinished. She didn’t want to clew up early, nor did the children.


Let’s look at pure economics: how do we expect women to enter and remain in the workforce, thus contributing to the tax base when the onus usually falls on them to pick up and shuttle kindergarten children from school to a sitter’s? It makes it difficult for them to hold down a job.


The provincial liberals have promised a task force on full-day k. What the heck do they need a task force for? Just look at the other provinces. In 2010 The Ontario provincial government under Dalton McGuinty introduced full-day kindergarten in 600 schools. There are now 50,000 Ontario students enrolled in full-day k, which is optional and free. Working mother still could not stay at work the whole day without some type of support. In Ontario, they have thought things through. “The integrated before- and after-school program is fee-based and some subsidies will be available,” says the Ontario web site. British Columbia introduced full-day k to half its students in 2010 and the other half this fall. I realize these provinces have a larger population base and more tax dollars, but are we not now a have province? Do we not value the education of our children?


I searched the word kindergarten in the Conservative blue book and came up with zilch. So I called Confederation Building and inquired about their policy on full-day k. “I’m not really sure,” came the response. Hmmm.


So there you have it: full-day kindergarten should be introduced in Newfoundland and Labrador lickety split. Bring on the comments.


Susan Flanagan is a writer and mother of five living in St. John’s.