Archive for Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Push toward all-day kindergarten takes root

July 23, 2008

Offering all-day kindergarten is a trend that has proved successful is districts across the state.

And the Basehor-Linwood School District is jumping on the bandwagon.

An all-day kindergarten pilot program at Linwood Elementary School for the 2008-2009 school year was approved by the school board earlier this year. While the new 5- and 6-year-old students are looking forward to extra recess, eating lunch with the big kids and more time to play with friends, parents and teachers are looking to the pilot for increased learning and socialization.

"I've heard 100 percent positive comments," LES principal Cindy Hiebert said. "Parents are really excited to give their children this opportunity."

A new schedule, which includes reading, math and specials, such as art, physical education and music, in the morning, and additional specials, reading, writing, social studies, science and center rotation time in the afternoon, will allow children to explore subjects they may never have had the chance to experience during a half day.

"Some of those other things you can't fit in, in a half day - art, music - and that's very important in the development of kids," Assistant Superintendent David Howard said.

While still in its fledgling stages, the pilot is not mandatory and parents can choose to stick with a half day for their children and switch to a full day later on in the year, but Hiebert and Howard said most parents are opting to take advantage of the program from the start.

April Shivers, a paraprofessional at LES who helps out in the kindergarten classroom and also has an incoming kindergartner, is a parent that sees firsthand the need for such a program and the benefits the pilot will bring. After fitting snack time, recess and specials into the three hours previously attended by kindergartners, there was even less time for the core subjects.

"Literally, they have an hour and a half to do actual school work," Shivers said. "It's very fast paced. By 11 o'clock, I'm exhausted. Next year, they'll be able to take their time. I think it's really going to be a good thing."

Howard suspects based on his past experience with all-day kindergarten in another district, parents that were initially wary about sending their young ones to school all day will see the benefits and switch them to all-day by semester.

"I think people are going to be very happy with it," he said. "There's just a lot of research out there that supports it. With all the expectations we have of our kids at such a young age, the extra three hours has proven to be very beneficial."

The district plans to offer the option of all-day kindergarten at all three elementary schools in the near future, but space and budget concerns are always an issue. The concept of all-day kindergarten was a major factor when the district was putting together the $39.9 million bond issue proposal, which passed in October 2007. Three new buildings, an addition, as well as some remodeling projects covered by the bond issue are expected to be complete by 2010 and should ease most current space concerns. However, the state still only funds a half-day of school for kindergartners, making the extra several thousand dollars needed to make up the difference hard to come by for most districts.

But a handful of districts in the area are making it work regardless. The Kansas City, Kan., and Bonner Springs School Districts began offering all-day kindergarten last year, and Lansing will take the plunge this upcoming school year. Some larger districts, such as Olathe, have been offering the all-day option for several years by gradually introducing schools each year through a fee-based program where parents pay a fee if they choose to enroll their child in all-day kindergarten.

The good news, Howard said, is that the Legislature has been talking about the possibility of gradually funding all-day kindergarten.

"Their budgets are tight too," he said. "So right now there hasn't been any movement there."

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