P.E.I.'s Department of Education says it's on track in its plan to move kindergarten-age children from daycare centres into the province's public school system in September.
The provincial kindergarten curriculum is currently taught mainly in private child-care centres.
The space for the new integrated kindergarten classrooms has been allocated to accommodate the more than 1,200 children who have registered for the fall, Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Doug Currie said Tuesday.
"This is the largest educational initiative in the modern history of our province, and I am pleased to advise parents and the public that we are on target," Currie said in a news release.
More than 50 new school buses have been ordered, and the province says they will have enough child safety seats to accommodate children who weigh less than 18 kilograms. Classroom furniture, equipment and teaching supplies have also been ordered.
Stewart Darrach, vice-principal of Westwood Primary School in Cornwall, said 11 new classrooms are under construction at the school.
"Personally, I think this is an excellent move and … opportunity that we're having here with a new addition on to the school and for students coming in."
Currie said the parents and caregivers in the province have many questions about the process of integrating kindergarten into the public school system. In the spring, families will be invited to school information sessions where they will be able to meet kindergarten teachers and tour classrooms.
Uncertainty for teachers
Despite the progress, there are still issues that must be worked out, particularly having to do with the hiring of kindergarten teachers, said Sonya Corrigan, executive director of the Early Childhood Development Association.
"There are still a number of uncertainties around early childhood educators' futures, as far as knowing when they will receive confirmation on employment, where that employment will be and what their educational future looks like, as well," she told CBC News on Tuesday.
The province is hiring more than 100 kindergarten teachers, with many current staff at private daycare centres and preschool programs expected to fill the positions. Certified early childhood educators are being given first consideration for the new kindergarten positions.
Teachers in P.E.I. elementary schools must have a bachelor of education degree, but while the usual prerequisite for such a degree is a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science degree, that requirement has been waived for child-care workers who want to work in the new integrated kindergartens.
Instead, all new kindergarten teachers hired who do not already have a bachelor of education will be required to complete a modified two-year bachelor of education program at the University of Prince Edward Island by 2016. The Department of Education said interested teachers have already been interviewed by UPEI.
Certified educators who are 50 or older and have a certain number of years of experience teaching kindergarten-age children will be exempt from the university program requirement.
The province is also waiting for a report from Kathleen Flanagan, an early childhood education consultant who is drafting a plan on how to alter the program for the children who will remain in daycares when kindergarten-age children move into the public school system.