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Comrie family donation makes full-day kindergarten possible

EDMONTON – Beacon Heights School in north Edmonton will have full-day kindergarten for at least five years because of a donation from Bill Comrie and his family.

The Comrie Family Learning Centre full-day kindergarten classroom was officially opened at Beacon Heights School on Thursday morning.

“It’s great news today,” said Edmonton Public Schools Foundation Director Sandra Woitas.

“Not only has he made sure that 18 little bean sprouts get full-day kindergarten this year, he has also committed to five years of funding.”

The full-day program will be offered because of a $500,000 donation over the next five years by Bill Comrie and his family.

“I am excited about helping make a difference in the lives of young children in Edmonton, “said Bill Comrie, who was at Beacon Heights School for the event. “What I’ve learned through Sandra Woitas is that full-day kindergarten can make all the difference in ensuring disadvantaged students have every opportunity to succeed now and in the future. It’s all about putting them on a level playing field with their peers. I’m not only proud to be part of that; I challenge others in the community to support the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation.”

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Beacon Heights School in north Edmonton will have full-day kindergarten for at least five years because of a donation from Bill Comrie and his family. Vinesh Pratap, Global News
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Beacon Heights School in north Edmonton will have full-day kindergarten for at least five years because of a donation from Bill Comrie and his family. Vinesh Pratap, Global News
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Beacon Heights School in north Edmonton will have full-day kindergarten for at least five years because of a donation from Bill Comrie and his family. Vinesh Pratap, Global News
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Beacon Heights School in north Edmonton will have full-day kindergarten for at least five years because of a donation from Bill Comrie and his family. Vinesh Pratap, Global News
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Beacon Heights School in north Edmonton will have full-day kindergarten for at least five years because of a donation from Bill Comrie and his family. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

Premier Alison Redford promised to bring in full-day kindergarten in Alberta during the PC leadership race in 2011. However, the project – pegged at $200 million back in 2011 – was deferred in 2012 and 2013 because of budgetary restraints.

“In a perfect world, would we want government to be funding this for all vulnerable communities? Absolutely,” said Woitas. “It’s not happening at this point. We’re just doing something about it.”

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Education Minister Jeff Johnson was unavailable for an interview on Thursday, but a spokesperson for his office issued the following statement to Global News:

“On full day kindergarten, I can tell you that the government is in the process of developing and evaluating many policy options.”

“I was very happy when I heard the premier promise and commit to full-day kindergarten for all students,” said Sarah Hoffman, chair of the Edmonton Public School Board. “We look forward to that promise being fulfilled in the future. Until that happens, we are so grateful to our community partners, like the Comrie family, who have helped us invest in those communities that we know need it now.”

Edmonton Public decides which schools will receive full-day kindergarten based on the schools’ demographics and socioeconomic variables.

“We look at which schools are vulnerable,” explained Woitas. “And this is a school that is vulnerable because of its percentage of children who are First Nations, percentage of children who are new to Canada. We have some children here who are living below the poverty level.

“We still have very high expectations for these students, and now, with the addition of full-day kindergarten, we’re giving them a hand-up so they can easily make that transition from kindergarten to Grade 1.”

“We know investing in children today means investing in their future, our communities and our society,” explained Woitas. “Every child deserves the best teachers, resources and learning opportunities to help them blossom as they transition into Grade 1 and get ready for life.”

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Because of donations and community support, six public schools in Edmonton have been provided with full-day kindergarten.

“Sixth school in less than four years that we’ve had commitment from the community, and community partners like the Comrie Foundation, to help us fund full-day kindergarten,” said Hoffman. “We know the research is clear – it makes such a difference academically in the lives of students.”

“I think they have more hope now. I think they’re going to be on a level playing field.”

Watch the video above: Bill Comrie appeared on the Global Edmonton Morning News on Friday to talk about the new Learning Centre.

He and his two brothers are the founders of The Brick furniture company, which they sold in 2012.

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