The Burnaby school district is launching its own preschool at an elementary school in the Metrotown area.
Come September, the 20-child Just B4 Preschool will operate out of Chaffey-Burke Elementary School (4404 Sardis Street).
Open to kids born in 2019, the program will be the first preschool run directly by the district.
Other preschools at local schools are operated by third parties, according to Sheri Brattston, the school district’s managing director of community education, whose portfolio includes child care.
The district decided to open its own preschool, staffed by district educators, to take advantage of funding offered by the provincial government.
“The Just B4 Preschool is a ministry initiative. This is part of their bigger plan, their Childcare B.C. plan,” Brattston said.
Besides giving the district an opportunity to provide another kind of early learning and child care program for local children and families, the preschool will also allow district staff already working part time in one of the district's StrongStart program to become full-time employees, according to Brattston.
The StrongStart will continue to run in the morning, she said, and the same space will be used in the afternoon for the preschool.
The district has already had the space licensed by Fraser Health for use as a preschool, according to Brattston.
“The intention behind the ministry initiative was to utilize existing spaces in school buildings, to make the most out of our space,” she said.
Brattston’s take on the ministry’s “Just B4” moniker for the new preschool initiative is that kids in the program will be encouraged to “just be four years old.”
“The intention is for four-year-olds, who will be transitioning to kindergarten the following year, to get a year of this rich, nurturing, play-based learning,” Brattston said.
Chaffey-Burke was chosen for the program because it is a StrongStart site and because a needs assessment showed there was high demand in the area for a preschool. The district also considered the proximity of other preschools at district sites.
The cost of the program ($350 per month for 10 months) is in line with other local non-profit preschools, according to Brattston.
The program will run Monday to Friday, 1 to 3 p.m., from September to June, excluding winter break, spring break, all statutory holidays, professional development days and any school closures due to weather or other unanticipated events.
To apply for a spot in the program, parents can visit the Burnaby school district website.
If everything goes well, the program at Chaffey-Burke may not be the last in the district, according to Brattston.
“This is a pilot,” Brattston said. “If funding opportunities continue to present themselves and we have the capacity, then we hope to continue to grow in this area.”