The advent of full-day Kindergarten is leading a shift in the province’s approach to childcare.
Meetings held last week between Northwestern Ontario’s district services administration boards and school boards focused on coming changes to programming in schools outside of school hours.
Under the Ministry of Education’s current policy, schools can open space for childcare programs both before and after school, provided parents of 20 children show interest.
That 20-student ceiling will be removed in 2017 and school boards will be obligated to assess demand for children aged six to 12 years in addition to its existing mandate to serve students between the ages of four and six.
Lakehead Public School Board early years lead Donica LeBlanc said making such programs revenue-neutral is currently easier for private sector operators renting space in schools than it is for school boards.
“All boards in Ontario can offer daycare but the problem is, we’re not subsidized where the third-party operators are,” LeBlanc said.
“For many school boards, it would be an exorbitant cost for parents. We’re really trying to work as a community to support our families in a way that’s economically feasible for those families.”
Increased childcare opportunities for school-aged children outside of school hours could alleviate pressure on daycare programs, which are shifting to concentrate on students aged four years and under.
“The whole concept of having childcare in our schools has been a growing and learning endeavour for everyone involved,” LeBlanc said.
“Quite a few of our actual Kindergarten classrooms are shared with the childcare program using them before and after school and then educators using them during the day.”
District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board CEO Bill Bradica said his organization is exploring how the DSSAB’s provincial funding envelope could be applied to subsidizing families wishing to participate in those programs as they develop.
Officials with the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board were unavailable for comment.