Elk Island Public Schools (EIPS) is cancelling half-day kindergarten classes because it has lost a provincial source of funding for noon-hour busing services.
Starting in the 2018-19 school year, all EIPS schools will offer just one kindergarten option — alternating full-day programming.
The school division said in previous years, all families of children attending half-day kindergarten were charged a transportation fee for noon-hour busing, as it was not funded by Alberta Education.
The fee covered a portion of the cost for the service and the remainder was subsidized by the school division. However, the EIPS said under “Bill 1: An Act to Reduce School Fees,” they are no longer able to charge that fee to families who live greater than 2.39 kilometres from their designated school.
Under Bill 1, school boards are no longer allowed to charge for textbooks, workbooks, printing, photocopying and paper as well as bus fees for students living 2.4 kilometres or more from their designated school, special-needs students and kindergarten students travelling home over the lunch break.
Transportation fees are still charged to families who live closer than the designated distance and parents who choose to enrol their kids somewhere other than their designated school.
An EIPS news release said the additional expense from the Bill 1 changes makes it unsustainable for EIPS to continue to offer its kindergarten noon-hour bus service. As a result, all kindergarten programming is changing to the alternating full-day model.
“Our first priority is to ensure we’re able to provide the best possible education for all children in our division,” EIPS board chair Trina Boymook said.
“Having to draw additional dollars from the division’s budget to cover noon-hour transportation would mean there would be less money available for educational programming. By introducing alternating full-day kindergarten, we can continue to promote growth and success for all children by keeping dollars where they belong — in the classroom.”
Education Minister David Eggen said there is other funding in place that could be used to maintain the kindergarten programs.
“The Act to Reduce School Fees funded the school fees that we are reducing and so if they are not having that money that we are providing for them to reduce school fees, then I would like them to provide more information about that,” Eggen said.
“The Act to Reduce School Fees also had a provision to allow school boards to submit other fees that they might desire to charge. So I think that the Elk Island School Board needs to provide an explanation for both of those things to me and I expect that to take place as soon as possible.”
Kindergarten is available at all 25 of Elk Island Public’s elementary schools, with programming varying from half days to full days. The division said more than half of their kindergarten students are already in the alternating full-day program.
For 2018-19, all kindergarten children will attend two full days a week and occasionally, three days a week so EIPS meets the required 475 instructional hours.
WATCH: The Alberta government put forward a bill to cut school fees on things like textbooks and bussing. Education minister David Eggen joined Global News Morning to talk about it on March 3, 2017, before it was passed.
The complete program schedule will be finalized in January, prior to the 2018-19 school year registration, which begins on Jan. 15, 2018.
The school division has put together an online tool kit to help with the transition, which includes information on registration, important dates, programming, what to expect, eligibility, how to find your designated school, transportation and more.
Elk Island Public Schools has approximately 17,150 students in 42 schools in several communities east of Edmonton, including Sherwood Park, Fort Saskatchewan, Vegreville, Strathcona and Lamont counties, and the western portion of the County of Minburn.