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Nova Scotia expanding Before and After Program to improve access to pre-primary services

WATCH: The province says it’s responding to concerns that the rapid expansion of pre-primary school is leading to growing pains. Alexa MacLean has more.

The Nova Scotia minister of education and early childhood development announced Tuesday in Bridgewater, N.S., that the province is expanding its Before and After Program to provide easier access for families with pre-primary children.

The province will expand the Nova Scotia Before and After Program to 40 sites this fall with continued expansion in 2020, where necessary.

“Families told us that Before and After programming and transportation would make it easier for them to access pre-primary [services],” said Zach Churchill, minister of education and early childhood development, in a media release.

READ MORE: Pre-primary delays carry expensive consequences for parents in Halifax

“Removing these barriers will help make sure families can access this important early learning opportunity.”

The Nova Scotia Before and After Program is a fee-based program delivered by approved child care, municipal recreation or recognized non-profit recreation providers. It is open to all children from pre-primary to Grade 6.

The program promotes health, well-being and a physically active lifestyle by focusing on physical literacy, movement and outdoor play.

NDP MLA Claudia Chender said the expansion of the program should have come sooner.

“There are many people who have not been able to take advantage of this program because hours like 9 to 2:30, or 9 to 3 don’t cut it for a lot of people who want gainful employment,” said Chender.  “So the extended care is welcome.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia to further expand pre-primary for 4-year-old

“We wish that that was standard throughout the program. We advocated that before the program was even implemented in year one,” she added.

The remaining pre-primary sites will receive bus service in 2020 when pre-primary programming is available to all children across the province.

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Churchill said demand for pre-primary has led to rapid expansion, and with that comes challenges.

One of the challenges faced is having the pre-primary program at Duc d’Anville Elementary in Clayton Park delayed by one month while portables are getting built. This means parents will have to find alternative care for their children until then.

“Again, we’re experiencing these challenges because so many parents and their kids want to participate in [the pre-primary program] and so we’re going to adjust and get those kids in as quickly as possible and we think that’s going to be by October,” Churchill said.

Currently, pre-primary programming is available in 201 school communities.