pe-lukas

Lukas Kershaw is this excited about starting kindergarten. ((CBC))

Schools on P.E.I. welcomed kindergarten students for the very first time on Thursday.

The province has had kindergarten as part of its education system since 2000, but until this year it was offered in private settings. Across the Island, 1,200 children walked into public schools for the first time for kindergarten classes.

"A little bit anxious, a bit anxious," Lisa Taylor said as she walked her son to West Royalty Elementary School in Charlottetown. "We're pretty excited."

Kim Kershaw, who took her son Lukas to school for his first day of kindergarten, said her son was more excited than his parents.

"This morning he was up way before we were, and he was dressed and ready to go by 6:30 this morning," she told CBC News.

Play-based learning

While kindergarten is physically in the schools now, the curriculum remains quite different from the higher grades. Learning is play-based to make the introduction to school as fun as possible.

"I think it's good for our son, but I think it's good for all the kids that kindergarten is in the school systems so that all the children across P.E.I. have a standardized experience in kindergarten," said Kathie McNally, a mother with a new kindergarten student.

West Royalty Elementary School added a new wing to make room for its 57 kindergarten students.

Major construction projects also took place at Westwood Primary School in Cornwall, L.M. Montgomery Elementary School in Charlottetown and Stratford Elementary School in Stratford, all to make way for the influx of kindergarten students.

The total cost of the construction projects is approximately $14 million.

Many of the kindergarten teachers are moving into the schools from the previous privately-offered programs.

Erin Acorn, one of four new kindergarten teachers at West Royalty Elementary School, said the children will have opportunities in the public school system that they didn't have in private kindergarten.

"Where we get to take them down to phys ed [physical education], we get to take them to music, library class — those are all extra bonuses that they're going to have within the school system, which is really great," she said.