Early Years Family Resource Centre hoping to increase school readiness

HUMBOLDT — The future Early Years Family Resource Centre in Humboldt is planned to begin offering programming in fall 2021 for families with children up to the age of five.

Kevin Garinger, director of education for the Horizon School Division, said the four pillars the Early Years Family Resource Centre will focus on are early learning, parents in education, family wellness and support, as well as information and referrals.

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“Those are really the four big pillars that exist. It’s really a centre based on play and exploration of course, but there are programs that are set up throughout the day,” Garinger said.

“We need to value the family dynamic and support families in this, that’s really what it’s about, and giving children and families the opportunity to be engaged in a way to provide timetabled opportunities as well as drop-in opportunities that can support the early year’s growth and readiness for school.”

Entry level Horizon School Division tests in readiness for school in the 2019-20 year scored 28 per cent of self-declared First Nation, Métis & Inuit students as ready, 54 per cent of non-declared students, and 51 per cent of students overall.

Entry level tests throughout the province in readiness for school in the 2019-20 year scored 28 per cent of self-declared First Nation, Métis & Inuit students as ready, 61 per cent of non-declared students, and 56 per cent of students overall.

Garinger said that in having the Early Years Family Resource Centre, they expect it will lead to more preparation for the children and result in continued growth.

“We have pre-K programs in only six of our communities across our entire system,” he said. “So having a family resource centre like this allows us to enhance those opportunities without the ability to be able to add pre-K programs to our programming options.”

Pre-K programs are set out by the Ministry of Education and brought to divisions.

“Communities like Watrous and Foam Lake and many communities around Humboldt do not have pre-K programs in them. We’re fortunate they have preschool programs and daycares and those sorts of facilities or opportunities, but they don’t actually have the pre-K programs that we actually run.”

Garinger said there hasn’t been a change in the availability of pre-K in the last seven years he has served as director.

“This will not be providing pre-K programming as such, but it will provide enhancements to early year supports that are necessary.”

Garinger said that with the future Early Years Family Resource Centre, they want to focus the programming on being led by the community.

Some of the potential partner organizations he said they intend to reach out to include the Humboldt Chamber of Commerce, City of Humboldt, Saskatchewan Health, Carlton Trail College, Partners Family Services, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, and the Humboldt Regional Newcomer Centre.

“It’s for the community by the community, so as the accountable partner we have work around engaging these other partners within our community,” Garinger said.

“We would have sort of like a board, essentially, that is comprised of all the partners, and the community would perhaps be engaged in supporting some aspects of the programming right within the centre.”

The space to hold the centre is planned to be 3,000 square feet.

“It’s a very large amount of space we’re going to need. We don’t have that kind of space in our schools so we’ll be looking at some other facilities and that sort of thing, leaning on our partners to help us with that.”

The centre is expected to create new positions including a centre coordinator and early childhood facilitators who will staff the centre.

“We need to get a co-ordinator hired in the next couple of months and give them the range to move this forward. The program, as I said, is for the community by the community so having someone hired to do this work will be really critical in terms of the engagement.”

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