News

District shifts to full-day kindergarten

By Brenda Sexton

The Courier-Herald

Starting in September, kindergartners in the Enumclaw School District will join the rest of their elementary peers with a full day of learning.

The move from a traditional half-day (2-1/2 hours) program to an approximately 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. kindergarten time slot will make Enumclaw one of the few districts in the state to offer full-day to all students. Currently, state funding enables schools districts to offer half-day kindergarten programs. Many school districts, including Enumclaw, offer full-day kindergarten experiences but parents pay an extra cost.

According to Assistant Superintendent Mike Nelson and district Curriculum Director Chris Beals, the district believes all students should benefit from the rich learning experience a full-day kindergarten program can provide.

Nelson said 55 percent of the kindergartners in the nation attend full-day kindergarten.

The research, the district points out, on the academic and social benefits for children in a full-day kindergarten is overwhelmingly positive. Children in full-day kindergarten exhibit more independent learning, classroom involvement, productivity in working with peers and reflectiveness. They outperform children in half-day programs on language arts/literacy and mathematics. The district notes children in all-day kindergarten experience a greater number of positive social interactions, have higher levels of school attendance and do not experience higher levels of fatigue than children in half-day programs.

In addition, children in full-day kindergarten are more successful with literacy instruction in first grade and are retained less often than their half-day peers.

Nelson, a former kindergarten teacher, said just extending the school day allows teachers more time to spend with students.

"There's almost a hurriedness," Nelson said of the kindergarten day, where a student's day usually also includes music, physical education, recess and snack time.

"We're giving children the time and opportunity to learn," Beals said.

The opportunity, Nelson and Beals said, is not afforded to every district. Enumclaw will still only receive funding for half-day kindergarten. The district will use Initiative 728 money to support the hiring of an additional six to seven kindergarten teachers.

The Enumclaw district also has the space. With its declining kindergarten enrollment, classroom space is available to keep student-teacher ratios at about 23 to 1. There are about 277 kindergartners in the Enumclaw district.

The kindergarten teaching staff will be attending several staff development opportunities this spring including site visitations to existing all-day programs. A week-long summer institute for staff will be held as well as continued instructional support next year.

"We believe the professional development opportunities that are planned for our kindergarten teachers are incredible. These opportunities will allow our kindergarten teaching staff to build a district-wide team that focuses on the best instructional practices for our kindergarten students," Nelson said.

The district anticipates the success it will see at the kindergarten level will ripple through the system.

"It's a great gift," Nelson said. "I would go back to teaching like this in a minute. We think it's going to make a great difference."

To answer parents questions, the district will hold four informational meetings starting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at Black Diamond and Westwood elementary schools and closing up at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at Sunrise and Kibler elementary schools.

For more information contact Nelson, Beals, or Jill Burnes at 360-802-7109.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com

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