From what we hear from school district officials in Kitsap and North Mason counties, the demand among families for all-day kindergarten is high.
Kids who take part in enriched early learning programs —
including all-day kindergarten — have greater success throughout
their academic career,
the experts say.
Local districts are joining the all-day kindergarten movement, using different models and funding sources. South Kitsap School District was the latest to announce its plans to expand all-day kindergarten to all of its 10 elementary schools.
By the 2017-2018 school year, all districts in Washington State will be asked to offer all-day kindergarten programs, and the state by then is supposed to cover the entire cost.
Steve Gardner, in his story earlier this month, quoted a North Kitsap parent, Stacie Schmechel, who said parents she’s heard from want half-day kindergarten as an option. Schmechel said studies show the full-day model works well for underachieving and overachieving students, but has little impact on those in between.
South Kitsap Superintendent Michelle Reid, in a recent memo to staff, said research shows the largest gains from an all-day program occur among students who enter kindergarten with the lowest skills, “though even students who arrive well prepared for kindergarten will benefit from an enhanced and extended day program.”
But what about those parents who just don’t want to send their 5-year-old off for a full school day?
Reid said the district, at least for the foreseeable future, would accommodate those families.
“We recognize parents are every child’s first teacher, and there are parents who are willing and have the time to provide enrichment for their children,” Reid said. “I think parents need choices, and we’re a district that believes in providing parents choices.”
But the have-it-your-way model presents some logistical problems. You couldn’t mix half-day and all-day kids in one classroom, Reid said. Districts already will need more space for the all-day programs, and if the numbers of families in each camp didn’t divide neatly, the district would have to make some hard choices or big accommodations, it seems.
Reid said the possibility that the half-day students could fall behind the full-day kids is a real concern. But until all-day kindergarten becomes a universal concept schools can’t/shouldn’t force families who want that half-day at home with their child, she said.
Schmechel argues that parents who elect to keep their children home probably have the time to devote to helping them learn, so it is unlikely they would lag behind their peers.
Brenda Ward, North Kitsap’s director of elementary education, said the request for half-day kindergarten when an all-day program is available would be unusual, based on her experience.
Peggy Ellis, Ward’s counterpart in the Central Kitsap School District, said she had not seen any parents requesting half-day classes there. CKSD will offer free, all-day kindergarten at all its elementary schools next year.
Some children, especially those who have had little preschool experience, have trouble adjusting, Ellis said. In that case, allowing half-day attendance early in the school year would be an option.
Where does your family stand on the option of all-day kindergarten? Do you welcome it as a constructive alternative to day care that you’d be paying for anyway? If you have the option to stay home with your child, would you take advantage of an all-day program? Or would you rather keep their schooling half-day for that one last year?