As the Nova Scotia government carries out the implementation of its free pre-primary education plan, there are parents and opposition critics concerned about how the final pieces will be put into place.
There’s a concern many schools are not equipped with the room to accommodate the growth in student enrollment, which saw more than 4,500 four-year-old register for the pre-primary program across the province.
On Tuesday premier Stephen McNeil announced the final roll-out of the universal pre-primary program for the remaining 48 school communities across the province, that will see 31 of those programs implemented in school communities in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education map.
The government acknowledged there are spatial challenges this year.
“Our primary goal is to get pre-primary sites at the school location, in the school where possible. As the premier mentioned, this is the year where we are going to have the greatest space challenges,” said Zach Churchill, minister of education and early childhood education.
Additional infrastructure like portables and property will need to be purchased, while it’s likely schools will need some renovations, said Churchill.
The Basinview Drive Community School in Bedford is operating at capacity, and now that pre-primary is being introduced next September parents and the school’s advisory committee are wondering where the program will fit into a building that’s already dealing with limited space.
“We have nowhere to put any additional children — we’ve got two portables in our parking lot,” said Ally Garber, co-chair of the Basinview School Advisory Committee. “We’ve had to move the Grade 6 (classes) to the junior high to allow the grades and pre-primary to come in.”
PC education critic Tim Halman said his own children have benefited from the implementation of pre-primary programming but his concern has been the same since 2017 when the pre-primary was first rolled out — he calls it a “rush job.”
“Our concerns again is how will this government implement this program in year four,” Halman asked. “There are capacity issues and what will they do to help early-childhood learning centers adapt to the new reality of pre-primary?
The government indicated they will invest $17.5 million to complete the final rollout of the four-year pre-primary programming, that will see 253 school communities receive pre-primary learning when September rolls around.
The Halifax Regional Centre for Education says there’s more information coming about the new locations in the communities coming in the next few days, while Garber says this information should have been made with Tuesday’s announcement.
“Unanswered questions can cause a lot of concern in school communities and I think this is an example of what’s happening,” said Garber.