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Blueberry StrongStart BC opens

Parents, caregivers, children, teachers, trustees and district staff celebrated the official opening of the Province's StrongStart BC early learning centre at Blueberry Creek Community School, Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid announced today.

"Young children can discover the joy of learning within a fostering, supportive and fun environment," said MacDiarmid. "This centre will bring parents, caregivers and educators together to help early learners grow linguistically, emotionally and socially, and become comfortable in a school-like setting."

StrongStart BC is a free early learning program for preschool-aged children accompanied by a parent or caregiver. A qualified early childhood educator leads activities including stories, music, and arts to help children develop to their potential.

All of B.C.'s 60 school districts have been offered the opportunity to participate in the StrongStart BC program. The province is investing  $43 million to expand the StrongStart BC program. Over 100 new StrongStart BC programs will be opening this year. StrongStart BC centres help fulfil government's commitment to use underutilized school
district space to deliver early learning services.

The Kootenay-Columbia school district has received $50,000 for the Blueberry Creek Community School StrongStart BC centre. This includes $20,000 to prepare the Blueberry Creek Community School in-school space, including renovations and the purchase of new equipment and learning materials and $30,000 to fund this year's operating costs,
including staff, professional development, supplies and healthy snacks.

"Blueberry Creek Community School has always been the heart of the community and the gathering place for families," said Mac Gregory, chair of the Kootenay-Columbia School District. "We are pleased to work with the Province on opening this StrongStart BC centre, which will give children in our community the chance to learn at an early age and be better prepared for school."

Since 2001, the province has invested more than $155 million in new literacy initiatives, including pre-literacy and early learning programs such as StrongStart BC Early Learning Centres - almost $15 million to operate the kindergarten-readiness program Ready, Set,
Learn, and $2.7 million for the LEAP BC program that encourages literacy, physical activity and healthy eating in preschool-aged children.

Government is committing $151 million for optional full-day Kindergarten for up to 50 per cent of children starting school in 2010, and for every five-year-old in B.C. by the 2011/12 school year.