Archive for Thursday, January 19, 2006

Learning full-time at a young age

USD 491 studying alternative ways to offer all-day kindergarten next year

January 19, 2006

On the heels of the Kansas Board of Education's recommended funding hikes for all-day kindergarten, Nottingham Elementary School principal Jim Lauer updated the Eudora USD 491 Board of Education on the district's plans to offer such a program in Eudora.

"Looking at a number of different ways, there's a lot of benefits to it, and depends on how we set it up and how the school board would like to set it up," Lauer told the board last Thursday.

Lauer said one option would keep the current morning half classes as they are, while making the second half of the day optional for parents. The format would give parents leeway in how long they want the kindergartner to attend school.

"At any point during the school year, if they would wish to say, 'Gosh I hear that's really going well, I want little Eva to stay in school all-day,' then we would have that option to flip them back in," Lauer said.

Although the morning portion of the day would resemble current kindergarten classes, the second half would be filled with enrichment activities in reading, social studies, science and math.

Preliminary predictions would put more than 100 students in the class, with about 80 percent staying all-day at first.

"Those who stay just get that much extra," superintendent Marty Kobza said.

Sending kids off to all-day kindergarten could be a big step for parents, Kobza said.

"To send them away for the whole day could be nerve-wracking," Kobza said.

Because not every student would go through the all-day program at first, Kobza said he would like to see an integrated program with the current half-day schedule.

"That would be the goal. They would get the same kind of content that they would in the half-day program," Kobza said.

The next step in the all-day kindergarten planning process would be a visit to what Lauer called the state's "Cadillac" of all-day kindergartens in Chanute.

From there, Lauer and others would fill in the potatoes to the meat of the kindergarten schedule the group has so far.

"We have our meat set ---- or basic schedule set ---- and we can work out from that," Lauer said.

Although feedback from the board seemed mostly positive, board member Jim Martin brought up one possible drawback.

"I can almost see someone using that as a temporary daycare-type thing," Martin said.

With the possibility of future state funding, board members agreed solidifying exactly when and how students can switch from all-day kindergarten to half-day kindergarten was important.

"If they were signed up and going to a full day, the assumption is you would stay through the whole year," Lauer said.

Controlling fluctuation could also benefit the teacher.

"I think if we just have those kids assigned to that teacher, in my mind I say, 'we think it's an advantage that they'll be there all-day,' and that gives them the opportunity to have them all-day at least for a little while," Kobza said.

Lauer and other Eudora representatives will continue to visit area schools to research all-day kindergarten and return to the board with results by March.

The board plans to offer all-day kindergarten at the beginning of fall 2006.

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