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Surrey early learning program at risk of cancellation

Click to play video: 'Popular Surrey school program Strong Start at risk of cancellation'
Popular Surrey school program Strong Start at risk of cancellation
Parents in Surrey are concerned that an early learning program is at risk of being cancelled. A funding crunch could mean StrongStart will be scaled back or scrapped, which would impact thousands of children – Mar 15, 2024

Parents in Surrey, B.C., are concerned that an early learning program is at risk of being cancelled.

A funding crunch could mean StrongStart will be scaled back or scrapped, which would impact thousands of children.

StrongStart is a program that eases children aged five and under into kindergarten.

The school board said funding from the province for the program has not increased since 2008, and it is forced to either scrap the program or severely reduce it.

There are 23 StrongStart programs across the district, with more than 3,000 kids registered.

“With the salaries and the manager … it’s a deficit of around $260,000 this year. It has come to a point where we just cannot sustain it anymore,” Laurie Larsen, a school board trustee, said.

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StrongStart is a free program often used by new Canadians and families unable to afford preschool.

“What I’m hearing from parents who have been through StrongStart is shock and really deep sadness and a recognition that what their child experienced might not be available (for other kids),” said Anne Whitmore, Surrey DPAC’s president.

The collapse of StrongStart would also mean the loss of 34 staff members who run the programs.

In a statement, the Ministry of Education and Child Care said, “While the ministry remains supportive of Surrey continuing their StrongStart B.C. programs with the benefits this program brings to school communities, it will ultimately be up to the board to make a final decision on its budget after consulting with and hearing feedback from, their local community.”

The school board has asked the ministry for an emergency meeting to find a way forward, which is likely to come after spring break.

“I’m hoping the minister will listen to us and say, ‘OK, this is an important program and we need to fund it,’” Larsen said.

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