Ottawa Christian School is offering an extended kindergarten program (EKP) in response to parents’ inquires and the implementation of full-day kindergarten on the horizon in Ontario.
“I think it really meets the needs of the community in that you have that option,” says resource teacher Pauline Naftel, who spearheaded the idea and has enrolled her four-year-old son in the program.
“It also prepares us for when the province goes to full-time kindergarten, to not have to follow the province,” she says.
EKP is an option for students enrolled in senior kindergarten (SK) and junior kindergarten (JK) at Ottawa Christian School. Youngsters already coming to school Monday, Wednesday and Friday can opt into the combined SK-JK class held on Tuesday and Thursday.
The program can also be utilized as a drop-in for parents who have appointments or other obligations for a day.
Principal Paul Triemstra says the school was getting a number of inquiries from potential new families searching for full-day kindergarten, which is being gradually instituted in Ontario.
“People were calling us up talking to us about sending their kids to Ottawa Christian School so we thought, that’s going to become the norm,” he says.
Triemstra says the school also noticed that a number of home daycares were closing in the community as a result of the provincial plan.
“Parents were sort of scrambling thinking what are they going to do with their children if their daycare is not around anymore, so then we thought this might be the best of both worlds where we have our kindergarten three days a week and then an optional kindergarten on the off days.”
Approximately six students are currently enrolled in EKP, including one family new to Ottawa Christian School.
As full-day kindergarten rolls out in Ontario, Triemstra suspects interest in EKP will grow.
Led by early childhood educator Sharon Manouchehri, EKP reinforces lessons taught in the regular kindergarten program including the teaching of children to grow in their faith.
“It’s really an enrichment time for these children, where they can extend their discovery and play,” Triemstra says.
Naftel says EKP is more play-based and less structured with students, for example, able to spend more time making crafts. There are opportunities to experience drama, music, computers, story time, puppetry and gym.
Naftel notes that Manouchehri has the year plans of both the SK and JK teachers “so she can use that time to reinforce skills that the children are learning.”
The ability to attend the same location throughout the week provides consistency and familiarity for the children, Naftel says, “and the kids love it.”
She says her son loves going to his “five pipple (people) class” because it is a small group and the program is more flexible.
As a parent, Naftel appreciates the seamlessness of EKP.
“I can bring all (four) of my kids to the same place at the same time and all of the holidays are the same, and I don’t have to worry about finding alternate childcare,” she says.
“I love the fact that it meets the needs of so many different people — the people who do not need five-day kindergarten can just enrol for the three days, but the people who do need it, it’s a seamless week for them.”
People can register for EKP at any time during the school year. To find out more, call Ottawa Christian School at 613-825-3000 or e-mail info(at)ocshool.org.