Hearings Held on Changes to the Ukrainian Program in Toronto Kindergartens

We continue following the situation with the anticipated changes to the Ukrainian program in full-day kindergartens at Toronto’s Eastern Rite St. Josaphat, St. Demetrius and Josyf Cardinal Slipyj Catholic schools.

On Sunday, May 31, 2015, Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Toronto Branch (UCC Toronto) held a community information meeting (Громадське Слухання) regarding the roll out of the Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) program at TCDSB Eastern Rite schools at the Taras Shevchenko Ukrainian Community Centre in Etobicoke.

The meeting was attended by more than 50 parents and community activists, and was chaired by Taras Bahriy, President of UCC Toronto and Orest Sklierenko, Chair of the Ukrainian Education Committee at UCC Toronto. The discussion at the hearings was lively and lasted for longer than planned, more than two hours.

Mr. Sklierenko started off by giving a thorough overview of the former Ukrainian language program of the kindergartens and the changes stemming from the transition to the Full Day Kindergarten curriculum. The main change is that, unlike in the former model where Ukrainian and English sessions were separated and each lasted for half-day, now Ukrainian and English instructors are planned to teach as one team in the same room throughout the day.

During the hearings, the UCC Toronto representatives and the members of the public agreed that that their position is united and that their desire would be to leave the former model intact. Everyone realized though that this may not be possible as it may contradict with the FDK curriculum. At the same time, UCC Toronto proposes to translate the curriculum to Ukrainian so that the curriculum can be taught, partly or fully, in Ukrainian. This way the instruction in Ukrainian could be even more comprehensive in the new model than in the old one.

UCC Toronto representatives will bring this and other proposals to the meeting, scheduled for June 2, with the Toronto Catholic District School Board, which will also include school advisory council representatives, principals, elected officials and clergy.

According to Mr. Sklierenko, this meeting will serve as an introductory session, where TCDSB and the community will be able to share their perspectives on the implementation of the new kindergarten program. UCC Toronto has heard there are three main issues which are worrying the members of the Ukrainian community, namely,

  • the difficulty of combining instruction in two languages for young children in a single session and the volume of instruction in Ukrainian;
  • the plans to combine JK ans SK students in the same groups;
  • and the ways to ensure the interests of Ukrainian teachers in the new circumstances.

At the June 2 meeting, the community hopes to share these concerns with the TCDSB in order to find the best way forward.

Despite the emotions that are running high in the community about the anticipated changes in the kindergarten program, the May 31 hearings were quite constructive. Many speakers called for creation of a united position by the Ukrainian community concerning the changes. And the hearings seem to have succeeded in formulating such a position.

At the meeting, the community was able to make sure that UCC Toronto and, in particular, its Ukrainian Education Committee, understands the problem very well; that its position reflects the community’s concerns and desires; and that it will be able to represent the community professionally before the TCDSB.