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New West parent questions 'antiquated' gradual entry for kindergarten

A two-week phased entry poses child-care challenges for parents — but is it still necessary?
Do New Westminster kindergarten students really need a two-week gradual entry period, or has the idea become 'antiquated'? That question was brought to the school board June 20. FatCamera/E+/Getty Images

Do New Westminster students really need an extended gradual entry period for kindergarten?

The chair of the New West DPAC (district parent advisory council) brought that question to the New Westminster school board at their meeting on June 20.

The current gradual entry system, which varies by school, sees new kindergarten students start school on a slow, phased basis for the first two weeks of September.

“If you ask any parent here who’s put their kids in gradual entry, phrases like ‘totally unnecessary,’ ‘antiquated,’ ‘from an era when families had one parent home’ and ‘a total nightmare to figure out logistics’ are thrown around,” Laura Kwong told the board.

In her case, Kwong said, she sacrificed her summer vacation so she could save her vacation time for that period. She said families are often forced to “cobble together” whatever care they can for those two weeks.

Adding to the challenge, she said, is the fact that the schedule for the gradual entry period comes out very close to the time school starts.

“It’s super last minute in terms of trying to plan care, even though it was 30 minutes on one day, two hours on a different day, another two hours — a different two hours — the next day, and you’ve got like a week to throw together child care,” she said.

Kwong questioned how much benefit the system provides to children when so many of them are already in daycare and those first two weeks simply make their lives “totally inconsistent.”

She suggested the district should review whether the process is even necessary or, perhaps, make it optional for those families who do need it for their child.

Kwong also raised the issue that the district’s current “seamless day” child-care program, which provides before-and-after-school care integrated into the classroom, doesn’t cover the gradual entry period.

Superintendent Karim Hachlaf said he would pass along the concern over the seamless day coverage to the district’s manager of early learning and child care, noting if there are any updates that can provided at the board table, the district will do so.

School board chair Maya Russell, who is also a parent in the district, said she remembers gradual entry being “very, very difficult” to navigate.

She thanked Kwong for flagging the issue and suggested it might be useful to review the educational requirements of gradual kindergarten entry at a future education committee meeting.

The June 20 board meeting was the final one of the school year. The next scheduled meeting is Sept. 26.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
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📢 SOUND OFF: Are you a parent in the New Westminster school district? Was/is gradual entry a challenge for your family? Do kindergarten students need a two-week gradual entry period? What could be done to make it easier for families? Share your ideas — send us a letter.

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