Nova Scotia

Francophone school board praises pre-primary model

While pre-primary programs starting in September are a new thing to most parents, it's been successfully offered by the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial since 2005.

CSAP has offered version of program since 2005, says any challenges are worth it

A universally available pre-primary program for four year olds was a campaign promise by Premier Stephen McNeil's Liberals. (Paul Withers/CBC)

The head of the province's francophone school board says any challenges with the new pre-primary program are worth it in the end.

Earlier this month, Education Minister Zach Churchill announced the locations and rollout plan for the new free pre-primary program for four year olds promised by the Liberal government.

As of Wednesday, 662 children had been signed up. While it's proving popular, members of the daycare industry have criticized the province for its lack of consultation, potential effects on their businesses and outstanding questions about ratios, staffing and child care before and after school.

'Extremely beneficial'

But Michel Comeau of the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial says any challenges can be overcome. CSAP has offered a similar program since 2005.

"For us, that program has been extremely beneficial for our children and our students," said Comeau. "So whatever the challenges may be, I think the benefits in the long run far outweigh those challenges."

Comeau said 346 children are registered for the program in September and, like the English version, everyone who wants in is accommodated. The only time they've faced challenges with space and staff is in the Metro Halifax area, he said.

Daycare also offered

Most CSAP sites also offer daycare before and after the program, which runs for the length of the school day. Parents pay a fee if their kids use the daycare services.

Comeau said it was a given to make the daycare service available.

"Most families would not be in a position to pick up their children at 2:30 in the afternoon. So it's critical, I think, for families to be able to access those kinds of programs."

While teacher-student ratios in the past have ranged from 1:8 to 1:13, depending on the location, Comeau said CSAP is working with the province to transition to its 1:10 ratio in time for 2018.

About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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