The First Public Kindergarten in Langley

A paper written by Donna Linke

For a UBC course in 1974

The first public kindergarten in Langley School District was opened at West Langley school in January 1967.

Why did Langley start their first kindergarten at this particular location and time(for years before the neighbouring municipalities of Abbotsford and Surrey1)?

Who was responsible for the"push" to provide public kindergartens in Langley?

By the 1960s Canada was experiencing a period of “rapid economic growth”2. Educators are promoting educational improvements we're now joined by the public you began to see the need for changes in education if the country was to adapt to its growth.

In British Columbia the Chant Commission (1960) made recommendations intended to improve the quality of education in this province. This report, while making the public more aware of education in general, also recommended that school districts be allowed to establish kindergartens 3.

A change in the Schools Act and the same year provided complete funding for kindergartens. However, only a few districts open them up (or increased the number of classes) at this time.

Some smaller communities around BC did provide public kindergartens but these communities we're mostly’company’ towns. They each had large tax bases provided by a major industry4. They work economically able to provide for better schooling.

It is possible that's the towns, or the companies themselves, pushed for the provision of kindergarten's has a means of attracting workers and their families to these distant communities.

––– Langley –––

Langley school District open their first public kindergarten in 1967. Surrey, the municipality immediately west of Langley did not initiate public kindergartens on a regular basis until 19715. Abbotsford, the municipality to the east of Langley, also waited until 1971 to provide kindergartens.

In March 1961 the Langley School Board was considering “… the desirability of establishing kindergartens in areas that are large enough to support this."6  This statement was perhaps made to appease the public for a time (a discussion of the Chant Report was held at the same meeting) since a ‘Special Meeting’ of the Board held at almost the same time, concluded that "… Langley not provide Kindergartens in this district due to  …factors involved in the establishment and operation of kindergartens…" 7

In October of the same year the West Langley Parent Teachers Association (PTA) approached the School Board requesting that the Board allow the use of the basement room at their school for the provision of a kindergarten class. The PTA would provide the teacher and pay all expenses (including rent for the use of school facilities). The Board was concerned  about their “… responsibility for proper operation and liability in the event of accidents…" and advised the PTA that they were not in a position ’at present’ to entertain such a proposal.

Two years later, the West Langley PTA again approached the Langley School Board. On this occasion they requested that the Board provide a kindergarten in the West Langley Community Hall. The PTA was apprised that “… more study be given to the question of establishing kindergartens.” The board felt that a separate referendum dealing with this matter would “… probably be the best way of dealing with it."9

The West Langley PTA in September of 1965, requested, again, the establishment of a kindergarten in their school. Once more the board stated that the matter of instituting kindergartens was presently under study and there were “no spare rooms’.

The Boards reasons, over the years, for not providing kindergartens we're mainly lack of financing (the Langley voters turned down to referendums between 1963 and 1971)10 and lack of space (the Chant Commission) put Great Seven classes back into the elementary school and some elementary and secondary schools in Langley we're conducted in ‘shifts’.

Minutes of the Langley School Board Meetings also indicated had noticeable lack of enthusiasm on the part of the trustees for kindergartens

—- West Langley PTA —-

Between 1961 and 1966 the Langley School Board minutes reveal that with two exceptions,  (one letter from the Murrayville PTA and one from the Willoughby PTA)  the ‘big push’ for the establishment of public kindergartens came from the West Langley PTA.

There were three members from this group whose names are usually connected with the request for kindergarten. Mrs. Peggy Douglas (who became a member of the Langley School Board in 1968) and Mrs. Verona Clegg both had children approaching kindergarten age. Mrs. ‘Becky’ Rawluk had become involved with the PTA over the health situation at the school. However mrs. Rawluk felt, as did Mrs. Clegg and Mrs. Douglas, that the children in their area needed the experience of a kindergarten

—- PTA’S —-

At times it appeared at the relationship between the PTAs and the School Board was one of confrontation (especially between the Board and the West Langley PTA). — As there were incidences concerning the ‘water’ situation at West Langley School and the ‘shift’ problem at the same school and other schools in the Langley area.

Gradually however, this relationship change to one of cooperation. The BC Parent Teacher Counsel, through the help of local PTAs, was instrumental in achieving voting privileges for spouses of veterans.12. The board was beginning to look at PTAs as influential public relations agents. The board needed to get referendum's past in order to provide the facilities, buildings, etc. That Langley required.

—- West Langley school —-first public kindergarten

In January 1967 26 children were enrolled in Langley's first kindergarten at West Langley School. The West Langley PTA was particularly vocal. This may partly explain why their school was selected to accommodate Langley's first kindergarten.

Other circumstances also pointed to political reasons for establishing a kidney garden in this area. As mentioned earlier, West Langley had been on shift (from September 1962 until the following spring) and had a long history of ‘water’ problems. The parents also complained because their school provided no library or gym facilities. Perhaps the board hoped to appease the PTA by providing the kindergarten they had long been requesting.

After the negative responses from the board, dating back as far as 1961, to requests to include kindergartens in the public school system, Mrs. Clegg (one of the PTA members who was working for public kindergartens) in early 1966, decided to form a cooperative pre-school for 4 and five year olds. She, and a group of parents, work hard to organize and finance the preschool at West Langley Community Hall. This pre-school opened insect 1966 just over one quarter of a mile from the school.13

It seems an odd coincidence that the first public kindergarten was started just down the road from, at that time, one of the few existing pre-schools in an area as large as Langley. It is possible that this school had the only vacant classroom all low there doesn't appear to be any evidence for this. Perhaps the board felt at the West Langley children, being from a low socioeconomic group was in greater need of a kindergarten but it wasn't the only area of Langley in this situation (Aldergrove for example).

It is difficult to discover whether the Board’s reasons were political or educational. With the opening of the free kindergarten in January the cooperative pre-school lost some of its ‘paying’ five-year-olds.

Some public school teachers complained that private kindergartens created too many levels in a grade one class. Only children of those families that had an interest in preschool education and couldn't afford to pay the fees attended preschool.

Another possible reason for replacing a private kindergarten with the public one was voiced as early as 1944. Dr. HB King, Chief Inspector of Schools for BC stated that “… if public nursery schools are not established, under a scientifically trained staff, private institutions, under people with dubious qualifications, are bound to arise. The public schools then Will have a difficult task have fun doing, or attempting to undo, the damage which children will have suffered.”14

Many public school teachers in this era we're not aware of the regulations controlling cooperative preschools and we're not aware that the schools required qualified teachers. They had little, or no, understanding of the preschool programmes.

—-Later Kindergartens in Langley —-

In the fall of 1968 the West Langley School had a kindergarten enrollment of  60 children.  The May 31 (1968) Grade one enrollment for the Fort Langley region (the region to which West Langley belonged) for the Fort Langley Region.15 This was almost a 70% attendance rate. Considering the transportation problems (no transportation provided for kindergarten children and, the ‘feeder’ area for West Langley School meant a possible driving distance of over 8 miles) and the fact that kindergartens were are relatively new idea, the figures indicate a high rate of interest in public kindergartens

By 1969 all five of Langley's regions provided at least one kindergarten. (Still ahead of their neighboring municipalities of Surrey and Abbotsford.)

In 1973 when provincial legislation made the provision of kindergartens mandatory (with a two year leeway for this provision) Langley's kindergartens were well established

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