March 23, 2022
Dear Minister Lecce,
On behalf of the Toronto District School Board, I am writing you to express concerns about the extraordinary developmental needs of incoming Kindergarten students resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
New students entering Junior Kindergarten in the 2022-23 school year will have spent the vast majority of their existence living through the COVID-19 pandemic. Early childhood development depends on experience, and particularly social experience, which stimulates, tunes and hones the brain’s unfolding architecture. Because of the pandemic, opportunities for social experience have been limited due to closed childcare services, community centres, playgrounds, social distancing and other factors.
Many crucial community-level public services, such as public health supports for healthy babies and families have been delayed due to staff redeployment to COVID-19 work, providing some limitations to our understanding of the current development of very young children. There is also limited existing data on COVID-19 pandemic impacts on infants and young children, yet one small New York study indicates slight neurodevelopmental delays on children born during the pandemic.
The Ministry of Education's Kindergarten program includes a team-approach with one teacher and one early childhood educator in each classroom and describes the role of early childhood educators as "having knowledge of early childhood development, observation skills and assessment skills and bringing a focus on age-appropriate program planning that promotes each child’s physical, cognitive, language, emotional, social and creative development and well-being.” It’s also important to note that the Ministry of Education's class size regulation allows for smaller Kindergarten classes with no early childhood educator if the number of Kindergarten students in a classroom is under 15.
Therefore, I am seeking assistance from your government to help these new students develop a strong foundation for learning in Grade 1 by providing an early childhood educator in every Kindergarten classroom.
As always, I am available at your earliest convenience to continue this conversation.
Chair, Toronto District School Board