By Sue Tiffin
For six weeks each summer for the past 20 years three-and-four-year-old residents of Haliburton County have experienced what their upcomingfirst days of school might be like at School’s Cool a summer programrun by SIRCH Community Services and the Trillium Lakelands DistrictSchool Board that prepares children for kindergarten.
The programwas cancelled only once in the past when it was short on funds. Lastweek it was cancelled again due to the COVID-19 pandemic. About 30 to 40 kids some whose parents signed up for the popular summer program inJanuary to ensure a spot are affected by the cancellation.
“Well we hoped that it wouldn’t have to be [cancelled] but there is a fairamount of preparatory work that has to happen – hiring instructorspre-screening and intakes with parents organizing the six weekstraining and certifying the instructors – so the closer we came to Junethe more critical it was to make a decision” said Gena Robertsonexecutive director of SIRCH. “We have always held the program in akindergarten room partially to familiarize children with theenvironment they will be entering in the fall so when we heard theschools would remain closed we made the decision to cancel.”
Theannouncement that both the Minden and Haliburton programs were cancelled was made on May 22 on social media with a post on the SIRCH CommunityServices Facebook page noting that program administrators were “lookingto see as the summer progresses whether there are ways we can helpprepare preschoolers for kindergarten once we have an idea of how theMinistry of Education and the school board will be proceeding in thefall.”
What might that look like?
“We’re not sure yet” saidRobertson. “It really depends on whether small groups are allowed onwhether kids are back in school in September. This is still constantlyevolving.”
While the program cancellation is disappointing for thosepreparing for the home-to-school transition in their lives Robertsonsaid support would still be available.
“We know how importantpreparation for entry to school is” said Robertson. “We are indiscussion with our local school board and once the Ministry ofEducation has a framework available for the fall we will see if thereare other ways we can support preschoolers in the adjustment toschool.”