Cowichan Lake kids less ready for school

Lake Cowichan’s health profile highlights one area of real concern, reported Island Health’s Paul Hasselback.

Children at the Lake are not as ready to start school as kids on the rest of the Island and around the province, he said.

He appeared at Lake Cowichan town council April 22 to give an update on the 2013 local health area profile data, including the Early Development Instrument that talks about school readiness, but warned councillors that many figures and graphs must be viewed carefully.

"It’s because the sample numbers are so small," he said.

"However, I wish the trend here was reversed. Regrettably, Lake Cowichan children are more vulnerable," he said.

Mayor Ross Forrest said that he’d had the chance to view the entire report at the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities convention and was disappointed to see Lake Cowichan’s preparedness for school standing.

"We were at the bottom," he said.

Hasselback pointed out, as mitigation, that "all across B. C. when children show up to start school, they are not as ready as they were two, four or six years ago. But there is a greater need to have children better prepared."

Coun. Frank Hornbrook asked if the problem arose from not having a parent at home with the kids all the time.

"There are lots of ideas out there," Hasselback replied. "Parents do have less time to spend with children, because the cost of child care and raising a family is high.

Young people coming out of university are carrying huge debt loads and housing costs are also a burden," he said.

Sheryl Koers, assistant superintendent of schools for the Cowichan Valley School District, said April 29 that the district is always very interested in the information gathered by the EDI.

"In looking at EDI results for Lake Cowichan it says that 51 per cent of the children coming to school are vulnerable on one or more of the five scales they look at," said Brenda Reed, early learning coordinator.

"When you break that down, 26 per cent of the children are vulnerable on the physical health and wellbeing. That means they are coming to school either hungry or tired or are lacking some gross motor skills they need to be successful in school. We at the school district have been working towards supporting the families out there in order to address that situation."

Koers said various groups including the school district, the health authority and Success by 6 are actively working on the situation.

The big yellow Bubbles Books bus, a mobile arm of the Strong Start program, is also going to Lake Cowichan twice a week now, she said.

However, Koers added, echoing Hasselback, such a small EDI sample size (number of students) as would be seen in Lake Cowichan can mean that one or two children could skew the results significantly.