The education minister these days is trying to “avoid” the closure of 4-year-old kindergartens in Lac-Saint-Jean, but such a decision has already been made elsewhere in Quebec. This is the case in Lanaudière where, for reasons of space, the number of these classes has to be reduced. We’ll think about it elsewhere.
Posted at 12:00 p.m
Over the next year, the Samares School Service Center plans to close nine kindergarten classes for 4-year-olds, reducing their total number from 23 to 14.
In certain sectors, such as Joliette and Saint-Lin-Laurentides, growth in enrollment is putting pressure on overcrowded primary schools.
“We have to prioritize kindergartens for 5-year-olds in order to have space for all these students,” explains Maude Jutras, communications manager for this service centre. First, the 4-year-old kindergartens are sacrificed when there are too many registrations in the other stages.
If we have too many registrations in certain sectors, there is a lack of children elsewhere, which means that we do not offer a 4-year kindergarten. It is then necessary to pair the little ones of 4 and 5 years old to open a class. Maude Jutras cites the example of the parish of Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci, where seven students were grouped into a kindergarten class for 4 and 5 year olds.
“We try to accommodate parents in this way,” continues Mrs. Jutras, who recalls that the area covered by this service center is “very large”.
The lack of space could also lead to the closure of 4-year-old kindergarten classes at the Mille-Îles school service center in the Lower Laurentians.
Reducing the number of 4-year-old kindergartens remains an option for us if we lack the space.
Mélanie Poirier, spokeswoman for the CSS of Mille-Îles
Spokeswoman Mélanie Poirier adds that more than 150 primary school classes are missing to accommodate the students.
A mother has denounced La Presse the closure of kindergarten classes in Saint-Félix-de-Valois in Lanaudière. Her son, she says, had to change day care centers three times. She relied on the 4-year kindergarten to offer her “some stability”.
“And afterwards we are told that there is a shortage of manpower! Give us childcare options, give us a good education and we’ll be happy to come to work,” she wrote.
A difficult goal to achieve
In October there were 1,584 kindergarten classes for 4-year-olds in the province’s schools. During the 2018 election campaign, the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) pledged to create 5,000 full-time kindergarten classes for 4-year-olds during its first term. This number was later reduced to 2600 classes by 2025-2026.
In 4-year kindergartens there are an average of 12.3 students per class, but each group can accommodate between 6 and 17 students, according to the Ministry of Education, which reminds that enrollments are “on a voluntary basis”.
“The deployment must respect the actual capacity of school service centers and school boards to provide the service. The network has to deal with space issues and available manpower,” writes Bryan St-Louis, spokesman for the ministry.
The recent example of the Pays-des-Bleuets school service center has shown how teacher shortages are affecting these classes. Last week, its general director announced that due to a teacher shortage, she had to close a dozen kindergarten groups for 4-year-olds in her school service center for the coming school year.
Education Minister Bernard Drainville pledged on Tuesday that he would work with this service center “to try to avoid the closure of 50% of kindergartens for 4 years”.
17.7% share of 4-year-old children attending 4-year-old kindergarten in 2021-2022
Source: Ministry of Education