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Ambitious school boards raise big questions

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Publication Date: 
4 Nov 2011



Waterloo Region's two big school boards might be experts when it comes to the business of education. But why in heaven's name are they getting into the business of child care?

Suddenly, both the local public and Catholic boards want to hire their own workers to provide before- and after-school care in the schools for children aged four to seven - even when there are already community agencies doing the work. Their goal is the "seamless day" where youngsters are in the same room from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. And if their plans come to fruition, they will be the first boards in Ontario exclusively operating this service.

To some, this will seem a noble ambition that would make life easier for countless parents. To others it will look like public-sector empire building. At this point, the jury's out. But before the boards move any further with the idea, they need to answer a lot of questions. They may have concocted a solution for a problem that doesn't even exist.

The fact is, third party providers such as the YMCA, the YWCA and Owl Child Care already run perfectly good before- and after-school programs in plenty of local schools. In the Waterloo Region District School Board, for instance, 10 schools have daycare centres that not only take care of children before and after classes but provide care for preschoolers. In another 40 public schools outside groups now operate before- and after-school programs.

The boards offer no evidence to suggest there's anything wrong with these existing programs. Obviously, the boards think they could do better. Mary Lou Mackie, the public board's executive superintendent, believes board-run programs would lead to better grades for students. But do the educators really need to have their clutches on kids from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily? Isn't the current school day long enough? Are parents looking for extra learning? Or are they just - as seems more probable - looking for high-quality and affordable babysitting?

-reprinted from the Record

Entered Date: 
4 Nov 2011
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