East Kootenay MLA Bill Bennett joined Southeast Kootenay board of education representatives, children, parents and caregivers at the official opening of the Province’s StrongStart BC early learning centre at Isabella Dicken Elementary school today.

“By opening a StrongStart BC early learning centre in Fernie, we are preparing our children for school,” said Bennett. “The success of our students is a priority for our government.”

StrongStart BC is a free drop-in early learning program for preschool-aged children accompanied by a parent or caregiver. A qualified early childhood educator leads activities, including stories, music, and arts, to help children grow linguistically, emotionally and socially, and become comfortable in a school-like setting.

Fernie Child Care Society image

All of B.C.’s 60 school districts have been offered the opportunity to participate in the StrongStart BC program. The Province has committed $43 million for 400 centres by 2010. StrongStart BC centres also help fulfil government’s election platform and throne speech commitments to use underutilized school district space as centres to deliver early-learning services.

“We know that the most important time in a child’s development is in the early years. That’s why StrongStart BC centres are so critical,” said Education Minister Shirley Bond. “They are designed to provide support for families while preparing our youngest learners for success in school.”

The Southeast Kootenay school district has received $47,000 for the Isabella Dicken StrongStart BC centre. This includes $20,000 to prepare the in-school space, including renovations and the purchase of new equipment and learning materials and $27,000 to fund this year’s operating costs, including staff, professional development, supplies and healthy snacks.

“We are pleased to work with the Province on opening the StrongStart BC centre at Isabella Dicken,” said Glenn Dobie, director of instruction, Southeast Kootenay board of education. “Children in our community are getting the chance to learn at an early age and be better prepared for school.”

StrongStart BC centres are helping the Province reach its goal of making B.C. the best-educated, most literate jurisdiction on the continent. In addition, the Province has created the Early Childhood Learning Agency, which is currently conducting a feasibility study on offering all-day kindergarten for five-year-olds and optional all-day early learning programs for children aged three and four by 2012.

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