Toddlers today, students tomorrow

Nathan Liewicki
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Pre-kindergarten registration is nearing

Hundreds of three and four-year-old Moose Jaw children might not know it yet, but they are in the midst of enjoying their last months of freedom.

Pre-kindergarten is right around the corner.

While the first day of school can be intriguing or worrisome for children, it’s a door they all have to walk through. However, before that first interaction with other children takes place, parents need to first register their kids.

In the Friendly City, both the Prairie South School Division (PSSD) and the Holy Trinity Catholic School Division offer division-funded pre-kindergarten programs. There is ministry of education-funded pre-kindergarten programs open to parents, too.

“The basis around the ministry-funded pre-K programs is to ensure that (vulnerable) kids have that opportunity,” PSSD Superintendent of Learning Lori Meyer told the Times-Herald Monday. “Whereas our Prairie South-funded pre-K programs are more about general students – (less vulnerable) students.”

Ministry-funded pre-kindergarten classes have always had a maximum of 16 students, but PSSD pre-kindergarten classes have not.

The 2014-15 school year will mark the first time the division has restricted enrolment in pre-kindergarten programs to 16 students.

“In our (PSSD) programs we have tried it with more than that, but it starts to become a quality, safety and a physical space issue,” said Meyer. “So we are going to limit it at 16.”

In total, Meyer estimates there will be about 320 students enrolled in one of PSSD’s morning and afternoon pre-kindergarten classes in 2014-15.

Regardless of division, it is recommended that parents register their young, eager-minded children in pre-kindergarten as soon as possible.

In Prairie South, pre-kindergarten registration opens in early March and lasts for three to four weeks.

“After that first month we try to let parents know where we are at with things and whose in and if they are in a morning program or an afternoon program,” said Meyer. “We will continue to accept registrations, but we do have a limited number of spaces.”

She noted that if a program doesn’t fill up and a parent registers their child in August, PSSD would still accept that child. If programs are full, children will be placed on a waiting list.

Those waiting lists can vary depending on what school a child completes his or her pre-kindergarten education.

Part of that, at least in the PSSD, is because schools are co-ordinated into boundaries.

“They are directed to register in their own catchment area. What we bump into most commonly is, for example, a parent who lives in South Hill, but their babysitter is in Sunningdale,” Meyer noted. “They can apply for a boundary exemption, so that they can put their child into Sunningdale.”

She acknowledged that many boundary exemptions are requested, but in the end enrolment balances out.

Nonetheless, the most important part of pre-kindergarten is the play-based learning structure it employs.

“Literacy and numeracy happens through play, centre-based approach, singing songs and of course they are exposed to a lot of books and activities that engage their problem solving and creativity,” said Meyer. “It's very active and hands on.”

HTCSD public houses get underway later this week, whereas PSSD does it in reverse.

What happens in the ministry-funded programs is that every parent gets a home visit from the teacher,” said Meyer. “The whole idea is that this child should meet the teacher in their home, where they are comfortable, safe and secure.”

“In PSSD-funded programs often there are parent nights right when school starts. And through those PSSD-funded programs, those teachers do home visits throughout the school year.” 

Meyer noted, however, that parents are always welcome to come have a view of the pre-kindergarten program and visit with the teacher beforehand.

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Prairie South School Division, Holy Trinity Catholic School Division, Times-Herald

Geographic location: Prairie South, Friendly, Sunningdale South Hill

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