Seventeen of 19 StrongStart Early Learning Centres reopen in elementary schools across the city on Sept. 10 and the StrongStart Centre at Champlain Heights Annex will reopen Sept. 17.
Macdonald elementary school, which faced closure 2010 because of low enrolment, will not only be the home to a new aboriginal focus school this fall, but also a StrongStart Centre relocated from a cramped Britannia. The start date of the new centre at East Hastings and Victoria Drive has yet to be determined because a facilitator position has yet to be filled.
The school board hopes to create a StrongStart that focuses on the aboriginal community to complement the new aboriginal focus kindergarten to Grade 3 mini school at Macdonald, according to Colleen Dickie, supervisor of early learning programs for the school board.
StrongStart Centres provide free drop-in programs for caregivers with preschool-aged children. The centres, which are staffed by licensed early childhood educators, provide children with the skills needed to be ready for school. Parents and caregivers learn activities they can use to further early learning at home, while making connections with other parents and caregivers. Anyone can participate without a referral but the centres are oversubscribed, so some centres designate specific days for specific age groups.
NPA school board trustee Ken Denike criticized a decision he said was made by the board at an in-camera meeting last year to have the school board run the centres with CUPE staff this year instead of neighbourhood houses and family places that ran them in the past. Denike noted neighbourhood centres are integrated in communities and act as feeders to StrongStart Centres.
Dickie agreed neighbourhood centres provide strong connections to the centres. "There's a great strength to be connected closely with the school, we have connections to the families in the school," she added. "I think and I hope we'll continue to work with those community agencies to work together to bring those families in."
She noted that school boards run all of the other StrongStart Centres throughout the province and having one operator for 19 centres in Vancouver has advantages.
Dickie expects student nurses to start visiting StrongStart Centres later this month through a partnership with the University of B.C. faculty of nursing and Vancouver Coast Health. Daily physical activity is to be provided in partnership with Action Schools! BC starting in October.
The Ministry of Education initiated the StrongStart program. StrongStart began in Vancouver at two schools in 2006 and spread to 18 schools in three years. All of the centres runs in schools and most of them run from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information, see vsb.bc.ca.
Former NPA Vancouver School Board trustee Shirley Wong died Aug. 27. Wong taught secondary school in Burnaby for 15 years and was a professor of business education at the University of B.C. for 25 years before being elected to the school board in 2005. The graduate of Strathcona elementary and King Edward secondary helped raise $10,000 in 1986 to start an endowment fund for Strathcona through the Vancouver Foundation.
A viewing for family and friends is scheduled Sept. 7 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Forest Lawn Funeral Home, 3789 Royal Oak Ave. in Burnaby.