New early years program coming to Wolf Creek schools

WCPS to implement new Bright Futures Play Academy across the division.

Bright Futures Play Academy, described as a blend of the best of the best pre-school programs from around the province is to replace the current variety of programs in operation in the school division.

Mark McWhinnie, WCPS assistant superintendent of learning and technology services, explained a task force reviewed the best practices of early learning programs across Alberta with the programs that existed in WCPS in coming up with the new division-wide standardized program.

“Each program had some strong practices with supporting early learning and some schools did not have an existing program. Recommendations were made to bring a division wide focus to number of existing programs in Ponoka, Lacombe, Bentley and Eckville while expanding programs to the other schools,” McWhinnie said.

“Bright Futures Play Academy is geared towards three- and four-year-old children and is focused on purposeful play and designed to increase communication, socialization and developmental readiness for a child’s successful entry into kindergarten. In planning for the 2016-17 school year, trustees recognized the valued work of the task force and the focus on early years programming.”

A 2014 study from the provincial government showed less than half of young children were developing in the five areas of development in an appropriate fashion prior to entering kindergarten. Other studies have also demonstrated that early childhood programming can improve educational success throughout a child’s journey through school as well as into their adult life.

Bright Futures is open to all children that are three and four years old by Dec. 31 with parents being able to choose from a few different options. They can have their child go for either three hours in the morning or afternoon two days each week. For parents of four-year-olds, they have the option to extend that programming for all four days with the child going either in the morning or afternoon.

“When children participate in an early learning program, their transition into kindergarten is more successful. They know the other children, are making friends easily, they are familiar with the school environment and learn how to be in the community with other children,” he added.

All of the programming is provided by a certified teacher with specialized skills in early childhood development, while the program focuses on building oral language and vocabulary skills in addition to working on things like fine motor skills, play-based activities, socialization with other children and exposure to literacy skills while also having the needed occupational, physical or speech therapy when appropriate.

“We understand investing in our early learners with a high quality, consistent program in the six communities provides the head start necessary for students to be successful,” stated WCPS acting superintendent Jayson Lovell.

“Bright Futures will provide an exceptional level of service and support to students and families in these six communities. Wolf Creek is proud to establish these programs and the board of trustees is to be commended for their vision in supporting this important direction.”

McWhinnie stated there has been strong interest in the revamped program in all of the communities, due in part to the success of previous programming as well as the positive response from various partners in each of the communities.

A community information event will be held at the Kinsmen Centre on Friday, May 27 from 1-7 p.m. with all interested parents along with their child are encouraged to attend this drop-in event and find out more information about the program and the activities their child could be involved in. For more information on Bright Futures Play Academy, or to register online, visit or contact WCPS division office at 403-783-3473.