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All-day kindergarten could be coming to Winnipeg school division

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Universal, all-day kindergarten could be coming to schools in Winnipeg’s Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) as its draft budget for the upcoming year includes a plan to expand.

School board officials say it will help parents with child-care and students with learning; however, it does come at a price.

That’s because homeowners in the LRSD could be facing a larger than-normal property tax hike, with part of that going towards expanding to all-day kindergarten.

"We decided to go a little higher to provide something extra for our community," said Chris Sigurdson, vice chair of the LRSD board.

The school board's draft budget includes a 7.5 per cent tax hike or an average annual increase of $150.

This comes after the new NDP government ended a freeze on school tax hikes.

Sigurdson says most of that new money is needed just to maintain the status quo because of a deficit, inflation and enrolment climbing by 900 students.

"That just to break even, and not make any cuts and not lay off any teachers or get rid of any programs that our community depends on, we would need to have 6.5 per cent,” he said.

The other percentage point would be used to extend all-day kindergarten from nine to all 30 schools in the division at a cost of close to $2.6 million.

The division says this will help parents with child-care.

Most other provinces have also gone this route as studies have shown the extra hours provide long-term educational benefits.

"By the time they get to Grade Three, Four and Five, their reading is significantly better, their math is significantly better,” Sigurdson said.

But the Manitoba Child Care Association says these children will still need before and after-school care, not to mention Christmas and summer breaks.

"It’s going to be a very bumpy transition year for families and for child-care programs," said Jodie Kehl with the Manitoba Child Care Association.

The association also says four and five-year-olds may not be ready for a full day, adding child-care centres offer more play-based environments.

"And some of them are still requiring an afternoon nap. So, to be in a full-day classroom from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., is a really long day for little bodies,” Kehl said.

The draft budget says the division will need to hire the equivalent of 22 full-time teachers and 12.5 educational assistants for 21 schools and 42 classrooms.

It’s set to go for a vote on March 12.

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