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School District 47 ensures students start strong

Board of education has programs in place to facilitate positive educational experiences
PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES: School District 47 district principal of early learning, child care, school nutrition and summer programs Raun Rainbow is helping oversee important learning opportunities for children, from a very young age, up until the start of school, and beyond.

School District 47 (SD47) is ensuring students receive the best of learning from a very early age.

Raun Rainbow, principal of early learning, child care, school nutrition and summer programs, said the learner’s journey in the school district is from age zero until the student graduates.

Rainbow said, for example, that children can attend the StrongStart program from a very early age.

“Families can attend with infants and toddlers and go to one of the centres, where they will have an early childhood educator, who will assist them and provide some guidance and some play-based opportunities and activities,” said Rainbow. “It will help build on the successes of what the families are already doing in their homes.”

StrongStart programs are operating at Westview, Henderson and Edgehill elementary schools, and Kelly Creek Community School, according to Rainbow. There is also the StrongStart GO van, which travels to various locations to provide opportunities for parents and young learners.

“One of the big parts of the early learning framework is a connection to nature,” said Rainbow.

He said the StrongStart program is based on relationships and needs of families.

“Early childhood educators will have some ideas and some activities set up for families,” said Rainbow. “Once families are there, they can engage and participate in what they would like. They can get some suggestions for moving forward as well.”

According to the school district website, all children participating in StrongStart must be registered with the ministry of education. Once registered, families are welcome to attend any centre in the region.

The website states that the program supports smooth and successful kindergarten transitions for children and families, supports families as the primary educators of their children, and makes school facilities and resources available to the preschool population.

StrongStart GO operates throughout qathet region parks and playgrounds for children from newborn to five years old.

Berfore and after

Another program the district is operating at Edgehill is the seamless day kindergarten program. It employs certified early childhood educators to provide before- and after-school care in kindergarten classrooms and supports learning alongside the classroom teacher.

“It’s an amazing opportunity the ministry has started where we have before- and after-school childcare,” said Rainbow. “Kindergarten students have that one person they see in the morning. They come to school in the morning and their child-care worker starts the day with them and then stays with them in the classroom. When the day is over, the students stay with that early childhood educator until the end of the day.”

Rainbow said this is a new program established by the ministry of education.

“It’s been a big learning curve for us, but we’re finding huge success with the extra support within the classroom,” said Rainbow. “The children go in and have a warm, caring face that they know at the beginning of the day and that person stays with them right into the kindergarten classroom, helping their transitions and the kindergarten teachers.

Rainbow said the district also offers before- and after-school programs in all elementary schools but Texada, where the district is also hoping to establish a program.

“If that’s the case, all our elementary schools will have before and after school care for children,” said Rainbow. “Most of them run an hour before school and then it goes until 5 pm at the end of the day. It’s supervised activity by our educational assistants, who are the same people who work with the kids during the day.

“Child care is a huge need in our community, and right across the country. We’re doing our best as a school district to help develop supports for families because we know that stable and consistent schedules for children are really a benefit for their learning.”

Rainbow said the school district strives to keep costs low, so it is affordable for parents.

The school district is in the process of developing its strategic plan and one of the highlights is early learning, said Rainbow. He said SD47 is enveloping early learners with the understanding that growth in learning extends all the way down to infancy.

Encompassing approach

Rainbow said there is a prerogative to set up a great learning experience for the entire scope of the students’ time in the district.

“It’s really an encompassing approach,” added Rainbow. “We are doing our best to see the learner as a whole during their entire journey.”

Rainbow is new to School District 47, having been an assistant principal in Calgary before moving to the qathet region and becoming vice-principal at Westview Elementary School last school year. He said he moved here for opportunity and location.

“I’m very lucky because I get to be there right at the beginning and be part of the joy as young learners explore their learning journey,” said Rainbow. “When you get to go into these structured centres or classrooms and see the passion that children have, they just embrace life and learning wholeheartedly, and you can’t help but smile. You see how excited they are to be discovering and figuring out new parts of the world in their own abilities and skills. It’s great to be part of that.”

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