Nova Scotia preprimary classes will be up and running by end of

first_imgHALIFAX – A key campaign promise by Nova Scotia Liberals will be fulfilled when the expansion of pre-primary classes for four-year-olds is up and running by the end of the week, says Education Minister Zach Churchill.Churchill said Monday that a full complement of early childhood educators — 102 — had been hired to teach in all 50 classes in 43 locations across the province. Churchill announced in July that 30 new classes would be added to 20 existing classes.The minister, who made the announcement at a pre-primary class in the Halifax suburb of Lower Sackville, said another two classes would also open within the first two weeks of October, bringing the total number of classes this year to 52.He said 818 children had been enrolled for the play-based pre-primary program.“So I would encourage parents to participate as this program gets expanded because it’s free and it’s going to be positive for their children,” he said in an interview.Churchill said the next step is a consultation process later this fall with the private non-profit sector, during which the groundwork will be laid for phase two of the rollout, which will tentatively see another 70 classes added to the system next September.He says the startup cost for the initial 52 classes is $6.5 million — or about $125,000 per class. The program is to be introduced across the province over the next four years at a cost of $49.9 million a year.First announced in April, the speed of government’s rollout following the May 30 election has been criticized by political foes who have called for a delay and by the early child care sector, which expressed doubts that enough qualified staff would be found.“I know that people were wondering why we were so ambitious with our timeline,” said Churchill. “It’s really that we wanted to make sure that kids in this learning cohort had access to these programs this year.”Churchill said any providers hurt by the government’s program would get help in recruiting workers, although he believes there will be enough to go around. He said there are currently 2,400 early childhood educators who are registered to work in Nova Scotia, with about 1,600 employed by the private and non-profit sector.He said the fully staffed, government-funded pre-primary would need about 500 early childhood educators.“The labour market analysis is telling us there are enough early childhood educators registered here to fill the complete demand, but of course we don’t know if people will choose to enter into the field professionally that they studied in,” said Churchill.Lisa Davies, chair of the Non Profit Directors Association of Nova Scotia, said she’s surprised the government was able to find enough staff so quickly.“I hope that they are all fully trained … so that they can provide the best possible program for the children, especially in light of the quick start. You’re going to have to have some pretty skilled folks that can pick that kind of thing up off the ground and run with it.”Davies said her organization would have a better idea of whether there’s been any adverse impact to its workforce when it meets later this week.last_img read more