The Nova Scotia provincial government has announced the final phase of its pre-primary program, which will see access expanded to another 48 schools and the service made available to all four-year-old students.
Premier Stephen McNeil and Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Zach Churchill made the announcement Tuesday at Chebucto Heights Elementary School.
$17.5 million will be invested annually to support the expansion, bringing the total yearly contribution to $51.4 million.
“This is a major investment in our children,” said McNeil. “The legacy of this project will go on for years to come.”
“The province will see the benefit of this for decades,” he said.
About 4,500 students were enrolled in the pre-primary program in 2018-19.
This September, the number of schools offering the service will rise to 253, making for a near 20-per cent increase from the previous year.
Churchill said for some parents, the rollout is long-awaited.
“Our biggest challenge has been keeping up with the demand from every single community that wanted access to this,” he explained.
“People want this program. It’s beneficial to the child, it’s beneficial to the family.”
“It’s been a game changer here at Chebucto Heights,” said the school’s principal, Craig Myra.
Educators and parents alike indicate the earlier introduction to the school system helps students settle in and get ready to learn faster than the traditional starting point of grade primary.
“We do a midterm data collection as a school and our grade primaries did really well on that this year,” Myra explained.
“I attribute that to the work that’s happening in pre-primary here at the school.”
Anna McCurdy’s daughter is now in Grade 2, having just missed out on pre-primary when she was that age.
Her son, however, was part of the first cohort to attend. She says the difference between the two once they reached grade primary was obvious.
“My daughter probably took three or four weeks to find her pace and find her groove in primary, whereas he was set in the first couple of days,” she said.
“He was able to adapt to being in a group of peers more quickly because he had his friends around in a play environment,” she said of pre-primary. “So in a classroom environment it was a little easier to get used to sitting down with your friends.”
Previously, many pre-primary students started their school day at a later time than other students, contributing to making them being ineligible for bus service.
Coupled with the final phase of the pre-primary program comes a roll out of expanded bus access, which will see the younger students bused to school as well.