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All-day kindergarten a hit, but extended programs prove less popular

Two new studies show that children born just before kindergarten age cut-off dates are more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder.

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

While parents are clamouring to enroll their children in all-day kindergarten for next fall, interest in extended-day programs has been less enthusiastic, meaning that many of the GTA schools set to introduce the full-day program next fall won't be offering before- and after-school care.

Minister of Education Leona Dombrowsky announced the list of more than 200 sites for the second phase of its rollout Tuesday, including an additional 20 sites in Toronto. The vision of Charles Pascal, the expert who developed the model for the program, was to provide continuous care throughout the day, combining childcare and education. But for that model to be maintained, the school boards stand to learn a lesson from the first phase of the rollout: Parents won't commit to before- and after-school programs without a firm price tag.

"We're not able to offer it at any of our sites, there hasn't been enough interest," said Catherine LeBlanc Miller, a trustee for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, which will roll out the full-day program at 28 sites this fall. "I think it's because of the fees, parents want to know the price before they commit."

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Kelly Baker, a spokeswoman for the Toronto District School Board, said after-hours childcare would be offered at "only a handful" of the 71 schools where the board will introduce the program this fall.

"I think there is a range value. Last I heard there wasn't a concrete price so that might have something to do with why people haven't signed up," she said.

None of the 25 sites at the York Region District School Board had sufficient demand either.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, however, will be offering extended daycare next fall at most of its 16 full-day sites through contracts with existing providers like the YMCA.

"They are charging $22 a day and have advertised this to parents," said spokesman Bruce Campbell.

All-day kindergarten will be introduced in September in nearly 600 schools across the province, and by the 2011-12 school year, in an additional 200 schools, bringing the full-day option to about 50,000 students.

Extended-day care aside, the full-day program remains popular among parents.

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"What we're hearing from school boards is there has been a very healthy response to [the full-day]initiative, parents are voting with their feet on this one," Dombrowsky said.

The province has pledged $200-million toward the program for next year, $300-million for the second year and another $245-million to build classrooms to accommodate the program. All-day kindergarten will be available everywhere, to about 240,000 students in 4,000 classrooms, by 2015.

The earliest phases of the rollout will be the most affordable, as boards and the ministry cherry-pick sites that need the least renovation. The TCDSB will receive just under $2.3-million and the TDSB just over $4.6-million in capital funding, to build and expand classrooms for the second phase.

But boards are already expressing concerns that the program is under-funded - The TDSB is projecting a $400,000 shortfall and the Peel District School Board a $1.8-million shortfall in funding for phase one of the rollout.

Toronto schools that will offer full-day kindergarten in 2011-12 include:

Buchanan Public School

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Burrows Hall Junior Public School

Chalkfarm Public School

Galloway Road Public School

Heritage Park Public School

Ionview Public School

Queen Victoria Junior Public School

Sprucecourt Junior Public School

St. Margaret's Public School

Walter Perry Junior Public School

Holy Rosary Catholic School

Nativity of Our Lord Catholic School

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School

St. Charles Garnier Catholic School

St. Dominic Savio Catholic School

St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School

St. Norbert Catholic School

St. Rita Catholic School

St. Teresa Catholic School

St. Wilfrid Catholic School

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About the Author
Education reporter

Kate Hammer started her journalism career in New York, chasing crime and breaking news for The New York Times. She came to the Globe and Mail in 2008 to do much of the same and ended up investigating allegations of animal cruelty and mismanagement at the Toronto Humane Society. More

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