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Role of early education highlighted at meeting

"For every dollar spent in early years, there is an evaluation of a $1.50 to $2.80 in return," Jacqueline Gibbs, the program's co-ordinator told education board members during her presentation at their May 24 open meeting in the South East Cornerstone Public School Division's head office in Weyburn.
Estevan Early Years Family Resource Centre 1
The openning of the Estevan Early Years Family Resource Centre. File photo

WEYBURN — The results are in and there is no longer any debate regarding the value of early learning programs.

As one of the key delivery people involved in the early learning programs, Jacqueline Gibbs, the program's co-ordinator can even provide financial/numerical examples to solidify the argument.

"For every dollar spent in early years, there is an evaluation of a $1.50 to $2.80 in return," she told board members during her presentation at their May 24 open meeting in the South East Cornerstone Public School Division's head office in Weyburn.

It's just easier to make necessary changes in early life, she explained and "we have targets for every demographic."

Cheri Haberstock, principal of Spruce Ridge School in Estevan and Spruce Ridge teacher Treasure Ross, joined Gibbs to give illustrations of successes they met with home visitations.

Gibbs explained that the 16-member early learning teams are able to spread quality learning experiences, so that recipients in smaller communities are not at a disadvantage.

She noted how the home visits often lead to success while providing additional information for the educators and program delivery systems.

Gibbs also spoke about the progress being witnessed in the Estevan Early Years Family Resource Centre located within the Estevan Comprehensive School facility.

"These are not drop your child and leave programs," she said.

The early learning practitioner added that speech and language pathology work can start as early as age three for a recipient child and there is no waitlist. That sometimes leads to a big load, added Keith Keating, the division's director of education, but the effort is well worth it.

Early learning contributes to the deepening of relationships with parents and community, said Gibbs "and this is a big one."

"Improving transitions into traditional school settings is done by decolonizing spaces and sharing knowledge tools and skills between schools and families so that students are safe, confident and successful through their entire educational journey," she said.

That journey can begin shortly after a child is born, right to the age of five, when the youngster is prepared to enter the structured school system and to move ahead smoothly.

The mobile early learning summer tour led by Jenn Sedor out of the Carlyle area reached 22 communities in the southeast region and that included a summer Fun Kit that host organizations can borrow along with 400 Tales for Tots kits that were issued to public health nurses to give out during their 18-month check-ups. The Impact events hosted by community service clubs involved 350 families and each one took home a kit of books and learning materials along with parental information as "another touch point," said Gibbs.

A chart illustrating the growth of attendance and programming at the Family Resource Centre for Estevan and area, was also a feature of the Gibbs report, who also touched briefly on the oncoming federally supported $10 per day daycare programming.

"Not all centres can access professional development. We want to support them so they can get licensing and can arrange things so they don't lose any money," Gibbs said.

Pre-Kindergarten programming was also addressed and she said parents are being urged to participate in pre-school styled programming.

Ross and Haberstock then spoke on their successful ventures into family visitations that included 14 families of Spruce Ridge students after regular school hours.

The two related how they were welcomed in all instances and were introduced to other family members, pets, recreation rooms and often treats or meals while even learning about family dynamics, which will enhance the overall learning experiences for the child. Ross and Haberstock said they hoped to expand the program next year after starting with six visits last fall followed by five within the winter and early spring months.

"The parents loved it. I was just a ride along for Treasure," said Haberstock with a laugh, "I kept the dogs and other kids busy so she could talk with the students and parents."

Gibbs then added, "Families learn that teachers care. They can develop strong relationships and that makes a tight, positive relationship possible."

"We never did feel unwanted in a home," Ross said as the trio neared the conclusion of the presentation that had brought the board members vital information regarding growth in the early learning programming, outreach and the offerings of the Family Resource Centre.

Gibbs also added a few facts and figures regarding growth of the French Immersion programs at Assiniboia Park Elementary School in Weyburn and Pleasantdale School in Estevan where it will be expanded to include Kindergarten to Grade 4 next school year.

She also spoke briefly about the engagement of instructional coaches where play and exploration become powerful teaching strategies, even in later grades, before wrapping up the extensive but attention-grabbing report.