Fifteen schools offer pre-kindergarten programs, with those programs supporting 259 pupils, including 43 three-year-olds and 216 four-year-olds.
Prairie South School Division supports nearly 300 pre-kindergarten students through its early learning programs, which are developmentally appropriate educational initiatives founded on early childhood research and practical learning elements.
The division supports programs that it funds and that the Ministry of Education funds within Prairie South schools. Pupils in both programs receive support — depending upon their needs — from medical professionals through the learning department, according to an early learning accountability report presented during the March 7 board meeting.
Some professionals include an early learning consultant, a speech and language pathologist, psychologists, advocacy and behavior consultants, student support consultants and learning consultants.
Fifteen schools offer pre-kindergarten programs, with the division funding nine programs and the ministry financially supporting six, the report continued. Those 15 programs support 259 pupils, including 43 three-year-olds and 216 four-year-olds.
Meanwhile, 11 of the 15 schools have waiting lists of 85 children wanting to join.
Some practical elements that children receive in early learning pre-kindergarten programs include:
- Active, experiential learning through play
- Comprehensive, integrated programming within a prepared environment
- Child-centred, self-directed activities, which offer choice, and physical, intellectual and spiritual development
- Meaningful family engagement
- Integrated health, social services and educational supports
- Culturally responsive learning
- Mixed-age groups
- Intense exposure with a minimum of 12 hours per week
- Professional teachers focused on early childhood
The federal government funds an initiative called the Early Learning Intensive Supports (ELIS) Program, which enables children three and four years old with intensive needs to attend a pre-kindergarten program with extra support to be successful, the report said.
In spring 2019, the Ministry of Education provided the division with four ELIS-related spaces — two spots at two schools — for use within Moose Jaw. That fall, the ministry provided the division with four more spots for March 2020.
This past November, the ministry expanded the pre-kindergarten ELIS program and provided Prairie South with four more spaces for 12 total spots in six programs.
There are currently two children at Sunningdale, four at King George, two at William Grayson and two at Westmount, while two spots have yet to be filled.
Program co-ordinators choose students through an application process, and once accepted, children receive access to therapy supports contracted through public health, educational assistance support, supplies, and materials to attend safely and successfully, the report continued.
In 2021-22, the ministry provided the division $100,000 to operate the ELIS programs.
The division will continue to provide early learning professional development (PD) to its pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers and educational assistants, the report added. It will also ensure that this PD aligns with the provincial education plan and the developmental and learning trends that the division is seeing.
“(There is) really good work going on. As we moved through the pandemic, there was a lot of things we wanted to work on, and it looks like our numbers are coming back (compared to) before, which is really, really promising,” trustee Crystal Forese said.
“And early learning is definitely one of our key values here at the Prairie South School Division.”
With the current number of pupils in pre-kindergarten, she wondered if that would translate into a larger classroom population in the future.
That’s difficult to predict since the division doesn’t offer universal pre-kindergarten programming everywhere, said superintendent Amanda Olson. Each location is capped at 16 pupils, while children are enrolled in their catchment area and will continue their education there.
However, if a child is on a waitlist — at Westmount, for example — he or she could attend William Grayson for pre-kindergarten and return to Westmount for kindergarten and beyond, she added.
The next PSSD board meeting is Tuesday, April 4.