Archive for Thursday, August 10, 2006

All-day kindergarten to start

Research, teacher participation keys to ensure all-day program’s success

August 10, 2006

When first-year teacher Miranda Joy arrives to class on the morning of Aug. 21, she'll be on an educational threshold in Eudora. The date marks both the official start of her career for Eudora USD 491and the beginning of the district's optional all-day kindergarten program.

"It's brand new to me," Joy said.

The district announced its intentions to transition to all-day kindergarten during the 2004-2005 school year.

Since the announcement, Nottingham Elementary School Principal Jim Lauer has led a committee of district staff in studying all-day kindergarten programs around the state and creating the framework for the class here.

"This is going to be new to us," Lauer said.

Five other teachers and three aides will join Joy in running the program, which will consist of a three-hour morning session and a three-hour afternoon session.

"The basic kindergarten class will be taught from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.," Lauer said.

The afternoon sessions will contain the same lessons of years past, but the optional morning class ---- running from 8 to 11 a.m. ---- would give youngsters different opportunities.

"The morning stuff will be for small groups and individual instructions," Lauer said.

To help maximize the morning experience, some of Nottingham's at-large staff could be freed up to help out in the mornings, Lauer said.

In addition to basic reading instruction, the morning session will feature physical education and music classes to help youngsters develop social skills, Lauer said.

Students taking all-day classes would also have social time during the lunch period, Lauer said.

"It's quite exciting for everyone involved," Lauer said.

Earlier in the year, there was talk of how the state might further subsidize all-day kindergarten, but as of yet, the added expense of the transition is left to the district.

"We're hoping at some point in the funds for all-day kindergarten," Lauer said. "The potential gains for the young people must outweigh the cost."

After preliminary estimates, the district expects around 110 students to take part in the program, either for a whole or partial day.

"We're not anticipating more than 120," Lauer said.

The district predicts the average kindergarten class will have 17 to19 students or 20, if enrollment is higher than expected, Lauer said. The district predicts up to 90 percent of the class would choose to attend all-day kindergarten, Lauer said.

Although the final total of new kindergarten students could vary as the school year begins, the benefits of taking part in the all-day option are clear to Lauer.

"I truly think the best thing for the students would be for them to go all day," Lauer said.

By going all day, students would have more chances to practice what they learn and have the opportunity for more individual attention, Lauer said.

"I see those who go the full day to have a definite advantage," Lauer said.

Those teaching all-day kindergarten draw from a wide range of experience levels, Lauer said.

First-year teachers ---- like Joy ---- will be paired up with veteran teachers to help guide their experiences.

In addition, the pairings, the entire teaching staff will meet to discuss how the first-year program is going, Lauer said.

Despite the challenge, Shirlene Wedd ---- new to the district this year ---- is ready to begin the year.

"I'm looking forward to meeting the kids and seeing what they'll be like and seeing how they fit together," Wedd said.

While teachers prepare the classrooms and lessons for the new school year, parents could also prepare their children for kindergarten, Lauer said.

"They could talk to their kids about the fun they can have and the excitement there will be," Lauer said.

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