The Future of the Ukrainian Program in Toronto Catholic Kindergartens Is Being Decided

Up until 2014, full-day kindergartens at Toronto’s Eastern-Rite Catholic schools, namely, St. Josaphat, St. Demetrius and Josyf Cardinal Slipyj schools, had been partly funded by parents. This has allowed to have the Ukrainian Program which included separate half-day classes with instruction in Ukrainian. Now, full-day kindergartens at Toronto’s Eastern-Rite Catholic schools are fully funded by the province.

In his interview for the New Pathway, John Yan, Senior Coordinator with the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s Communications Department, said that this change in funding means that the way the Ukrainian language component is delivered will change, that “there are guidelines for delivering the full-day kindergarten program that must be followed. Some guidelines are, for instance, that we have an ECE, a designated Early Childhood Educator, along with the teacher… We will have to look at the language component and see how that can be accommodated with the rest of the full-day kindergarten requirements set out by the Ministry of Education.”

Mr. Yan also said that it’s too early to tell specifically how the program will be delivered and that the Board is holding discussions with the principals, teachers, some of the community and parish members that assist in the delivery of the program, and the parents as to how the program will look. Mr. Yan said that, by the end of June 2015, TCDSB will come to a model that “works for everyone and meets the needs and traditions of the Ukrainian community as well as the requirements of the Ministry of Education.”

At the same time, a petition “Allow Ukrainian K Program offered at three TCDSB schools to continue in its present form”, which was started on www.change.org, says that “this month the teachers (of the Ukrainian Heritage Program at the three Eastern rite schools – NP) were informed that they have to abandon their separate Ukrainian classrooms and assume support duties within the regular English curriculum.” As of now, the petition has gathered more than 500 signatures.

To the New Pathway’s question, is there a chance that the kids at those schools will still be instructed only in Ukrainian for several hours daily, Mr. Yan said that it is too early to tell definitely what the model will be. We asked Mr. Yan whether there is a room in the curriculum for a system where kindergarten students could be instructed for several hours a day in Ukrainian only. He said “there is always room for accommodating or customizing the program that meets the needs. How you do that, I guess, will be the challenge. That’s why we are open to … collaborating and consulting.”

This kind of system seems quite possible within the Toronto Catholic District School Board. According to www.thestar.com (Louise Brown’s article “Multi-language elementary school proposed by Toronto Catholic board” published on April 28, 2015), the Board is considering a possible French-Spanish-German-Mandarin-immersion program in north Scarborough which could start this fall. As of Friday, May 15, the poll on www.thestar.com gathered 1,249 votes, of which 717 votes (57.41%) favored the plan.

According to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Toronto branch, a committee has been created consisting of parent representatives from all three schools. This committee will work to bring the parents and other key stakeholders in the school community together in order to ensure an aligned vision across the three school communities as to how to support the ongoing integration of the Ukrainian language in the kindergarten curriculum at these schools. It is the committee’s hope that the ultimate solution will be instruction in the Ukrainian language at the same level it has been for the past forty years, delivered within the framework of the full day kindergarten curriculum.