Just B4 early learning school-based program expands

FAMILIES and more pre-kindergarten children will soon have their early learning opportunities enhanced as the Just B4 early childhood education program expands from one to six districts this school year.

“The first Just B4 pilot program at Columbia Elementary has been a great success. I’m so pleased that our government continues to prioritize the needs of our youngest learners and their families as we expand this program to another five school districts,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education, on Wednesday. “This program provides a positive and nurturing early learning experience while supporting children as they prepare to learn, grow and transition to kindergarten.”

The Province is investing $125,000 to expand the Just B4 early childhood education program, which is specifically designed to support children the year before they enter kindergarten. Just B4 is a half-day licensed pre-school child care program for three- to four-year-olds.

“Parents know public schools are available and reliable, no matter where they live, and moving the responsibility for child care to the Ministry of Education will help to bring the same certainty for parents who need child care,” said Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care. “The Just B4 program expansion is one example of how integrating child care into the education system makes life easier for parents, while also helping young children get familiar with their school so they can make a successful transition into kindergarten.”

The expansion of the program will continue to foster connections between the education and child care sectors. This supports government’s 10-year ChildCareBC plan to build a future where child care is a core service available to families in every part of the province when they need it, and at a price they can afford.

Just B4 operates in conjunction with existing StrongStart BC (SSBC) program by using available SSBC spaces in schools. This partnership maximizes the use of SSBC staff, space and resources within schools. In most cases, early childhood educators from SSBC also teach in Just B4. SSBC programs are taught in the mornings. The same staff teach Just B4 in the afternoons.

Just B4 started in School District 67 (Okanagan Skaha) during the 2020-21 school year and will expand to five districts in the 2021-22 school years. New districts receiving the program include: SD 34 Abbotsford (Dormick Park Elementary); SD 46 Sunshine Coast (Halfmoon Bay Elementary); SD 38 Richmond; SD 70 Pacific Rim; and SD 73 Kamloops-Thompson (Arthur Hatton Elementary). Schools for the Richmond and Pacific Rim school districts are to be determined, as they are in the process of obtaining licences. This expansion is expected to increase from 10 to more than 70 spaces. Programs will be open as many as five days per week during the school year.