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Preschool moves to downtown

Lisa Scott
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 29/05) - Preschoolers will join the ranks of students walking into the newly-renovated Mildred Hall school come September.

The Aboriginal Headstart Program is finalizing lease plans for two classrooms at the school for the fall.

The Health Canada- funded program has to move out of its space at the K'alemi Dene school in Ndilo to make way for the expansion of the school.

A $4 million renovation of the K-7 school is slated to start in April of 2006. Upon its completion in two years, the Headstart program will be able to move back in.

"We're looking forward to the move. It will be different," says Reanna Erasmus, program manager of the Headstart preschool.

The two schools entertained the idea of using portables at the Ndilo site, but decided a temporary move was the best option, she says.

The 32 four-year-olds who attend the half-day Headstart program to prepare for kindergarten will have to get used to sharing space with more than 300 students, but that will be good for them, says Erasmus.

"It will give the preschoolers experience for what it will be like for them in kindergarten next year," she says.

Yellowknife Education District No. 1 interim superintendent Ken Dropko says the deal is mutually beneficial.

"It allows them some time to provide continuity for their program," he says.

At the same time, it will attract parents to the new K-8 Mildred Hall, and they might choose to keep their kids enroled there. Yk No. 1 may even spin-off their own preschool program aimed at Aboriginal students, says Dropko.

The Headstart program has been running in Yellowknife and other provinces and territories for almost 10 years. Five hundred preschoolers have graduated from its Ndilo halls.

The program houses First Nations, Metis and Inuit students. The program aims to promote cultures and language, while involving parents in the education and health of their children.