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Winnipeg considers all-day kindergarten but at what cost?

WINNIPEG — The province says “no” but that hasn’t stopped the Winnipeg School Division from considering all-day kindergarten for certain schools starting next school year.

The Winnipeg School Division’s draft budget includes plans to have four schools take part in a pilot project for the 2014-15 school year, at a cost of about $225,000.

The division hasn’t revealed which schools, but Global News has learned inner-city school William Whyte is one location under consideration.

“We felt strongly enough that we should try it,” said Cathy Collins of the Winnipeg School Division. “But again, we want to set up evaluation tools for it, so we can see if it’s worthwhile extending it.”

If successful, the program could go district-wide, and while St. James already has some schools with all-day kindergarten, the move by the province’s biggest school division could pave the way for the rest of the Manitoba.

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But inevitably the question becomes at what cost?

It would cost about $13 million a year to operate the kindergartens across the Winnipeg School Division, with more than 110 new teachers needed, officials said.

There also would need to be a one-time $31.5 million infrastructure upgrade to add things like classrooms, according to documents obtained by Global News.

The cost in the first year could come close to $50 million.

“Financially and logistically, there are going to be problems,” school trustee Mike Babinsky said. “There isn’t enough physical space in some of the elementary schools, so you actually have to build additions or bring in portable units to create additional space.”

That price tag could have huge implications for property owners, with some suggesting double-digit tax increases would be needed to pay for full-day kindergarten.

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