Schools chosen for this year — the program’s first year — and next have been the easy ones, those with enough space to handle the program without having to do much.I agree the year one and two sites were the "easy" ones-- boards were outright told to prioritize based on need, with the strong caveats of suitable space with little capital dollars needed. So all the schools that had available purpose-built space were used first. Then came the ones that had available classrooms that could be easily converted into kindergarten spaces.
But everyone agrees year three — 2012/13 — is when the serious money must kick in.
The program can’t continue to be rolled out without significant construction to expand existing school space and tailor it to kindergarten children’s needs.
Elizabeth Moyer, a trustee with the Toronto District School Board, says the preliminary numbers she’s seen for the capital costs at her board are “just obscene. No one’s going to pay for it.”
Portables will be a part of the mix where capital dollars are not enough to add real bricks and mortar.
The Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association told me portables will be necessary in some areas, although boards will try hard to avoid them.
The response from Peel District School Board spokesman Brian Woodland when I asked if his high-growth board would need them to accommodate the program in year three?
“Oh God, yes!”
Next come the classrooms that cannot easily be converted into kindergarten spaces -- the ones that aren't anywhere near plumbing in schools built before each classroom had a water fountain or sink, for example. Or the ones that are too small, which would realistically require knocking down walls and amalgamating two classrooms into one (if the school has that space, if not, then as MacDonald says that means portables).
Let me add the additional thought, because I know some boards are doing this in line with their larger capital planning. If an old school (built in the 1950s-70s) requires significant updates, replacements, is under capacity and needs physical work to accommodate full-day kindergarten, how is it not now a candidate for school-closure review? The consolidated school that could result at the end of the process would have the suitable kindergarten space and building new (on a classroom basis) is usually less expensive than renovating and retrofitting.
It means it's not just capital for full-day kindergarten that many boards are facing. It can't be considered exclusively in a time when virtually every board is also dealing with declining student enrolments and facilities that were built over a generation ago and aren't living up to the needs of the kids who learn there today.
MacDonald also puts forth the idea of limiting full-day kindergarten to only five-year-old children and getting rid of junior kindergarten altogether, with a wink to Tim Hudak, whose platform in this subject is decidedly weak.
That kicker is almost a whole other column unto itself!