After four years of gradual increases, the number of children attending StrongStart programs for pre-kindergarten students rose significantly last year, school board trustees were recently told.
And with some of the district’s 12 StrongStart sites having to turn parents and children away because of occupancy regulations last year, administrators hope the Ministry of Education will step up with more funding.
A total of 1,212 children attended the free StrongStart programs last year. That’s a 15 per cent jump from the 2013-14 school year, when 1,049 children attended programs.
Cindy Romanowski, the district principal for early learning, attributed the local increase in attendance to word of mouth among parents, as well as more awareness about the benefits of early years learning. As demand has grown over the years, the district has added more sites – 10 of which are funded by the province, and two of which are district-funded.
An array of research shows pre-kindergarten schooling is a significant predictor of success both in school and later in life. The district itself is tracking the cohort of students who entered StrongStart in 2009. Data presented to the board shows that cohort has consistently outperformed, as a whole, those who didn’t attend StrongStart in reading, writing and numeracy.
Romanowski said there were occasions last year when sites filled up. Now, she is hoping the district can get more money to expand the programming.
Abbotsford isn’t alone in its need.
“The ministry is seeing that throughout the province, so we’re not the only district that is finding this.”