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French school to offer pre-kindergarten
User-pay programming for four-year-olds set to launch in September

Evan Kiyoshi French
Northern News Services
Friday, February 19, 2016

French school district staff are gearing up to offer pre-kindergarten at their Yellowknife school in the fall and the principal says she's excited to meet all the new faces.

Genevieve Charron, head of Allain St. Cyr, has until September to get a classroom ready for an incoming wave of four-year-old students and has to hire a teacher and a classroom assistant.

"It's strongly recommended that people have a specific education in early childhood, because the needs of those kids are really specific," said Charron.

She added staff are excited to begin the new program.

"I think it's a great opportunity for the francophone school, and we're all really excited to start that new project," she said.

So far, 10 students are registered for the user-pay program, said Charron, and staff from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment have done some initial inspections of the prekindergarten classroom.

"We had inspections ... to make sure everything matches the expectations of all the codes and regulations," she said.

Commission scolaire francophone president Simon Cloutier said it was time for the French district to begin offering pre-kindergarten.

"The program (was proposed) more than four years ago," said Cloutier, adding the commission decided it was time to begin offering the program to students with parents willing to pay for it, because it's generally accepted that starting students a year earlier could help to improve graduation rates across the territory.

Since the territorial government has not returned a decision as to how it may launch schooling for four-year-olds after the much-anticipated Junior Kindergarten Review was made public in draft form earlier this year, the French district has decided to implement the programming as an option because both the Catholic and public districts do, said Cloutier.

Charron says she's particularly keen on the program because of its ability to improve graduation rates.

"It's been shown in research that in the early years we can make the greatest impact with the kids, the chances are their going to graduate and be successful in school," she said.

Jacqueline McKinnon, education department spokesperson, said the department has had preliminary discussions with French district staff about the district's options for launching its pre-kindergarten program.

She said the space chosen as a classroom must pass a fire and health inspection and meet child day care standards regulations.

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