Task force recommends changing to all-day kindergarten by M. Jill Karolevitz An all-day kindergarten task force, which has been studying the pros and cons of the issue since December of 1999, recommended to the Vermillion School Board Monday night that the program be implemented in the Vermillion School District next year.
School board members will study the information presented to them before making a final decision � possibly as early as April 24 during a regular meeting at 7 p.m. in the school administration building.
The task force was headed by Liz Hogen, director of curriculum and staff development for Vermillion Schools. She noted that the group studied research, visited other schools, met with parents and conducted surveys as it studied the possibilities of all-day kindergarten in Vermillion.
�We visited Akron, IA that has had all-day kindergarten for 10 years,� said Bob Bowker, elementary principal. �They had a wealth of information for us because of their experience.�
Akron officials told the Vermillion visitors that all-day kindergarten is beneficial because teachers have more time with the students, students have more time to learn and grow academically,
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social skills and achievement levels both increase, the all-day setting gives students a more stable, organized and consistent environment and there were decreased special education and Title referrals.
�The teachers got tired,� Bowker said, �but students didn�t seem to get tired.�
Elementary Principal Mark Upward, went with a group of task force members to a school in Sioux Falls.
�Many of the advantages we saw with their all-day kindergarten program were the same as Akron � continuity, consistency, higher achievement,� he said. �There is more time for students to practice and build concepts and teachers get to know their students sooner and better.�
Sioux Falls did have a challenge � lack of space for all-day kindergarten classes � which Vermillion would face as well, if the program is implemented. Two classrooms would have to be built at Austin School. The school district would also have to hire two, possibly three, more teachers.
Hogen reviewed points of research conducted by the task force, which also mirrored findings from the school visits. Curriculum issues, she said, were very important.
Faith Tieszen, a Vermillion kindergarten teacher, noted that state-mandated standards for kindergarten curriculum will increase next year.
�There are reading and language arts standards now, but next year, social studies and science will be added,� she said. �I can�t see us getting the kids up to the state-mandated level in a half-day without putting stress on them. We�re already feeling rushed. We could spout out the information, but we would be able to teach the way we�d like to for kids to learn and absorb the material.�
Contact time between students and their teacher would nearly double if students went to kindergarten all day, she added.
Hogen noted that there were �cons� associated with all-day kindergarten.
�One of them is that it does limit the interaction time kids have with parents after school,� she said. �The cost of additional teachers and providing space for classrooms are other considerations.�
A visiting parent said she would like to see Vermillion implement all-day kindergarten because �it�s a national trend and I would like to see my daughter be able to take advantage of it, especially with the new state mandates coming,� she said.
Hogen pointed out, too, that 17 of 20 area schools surveyed were already holding all-day, every-day kindergarten, were studying it or would be implementing the program next year.
Other parents� comments, from surveys conducted by the task force, included:
? I truly do not understand the rush to turn out �ultra-educated� kindergartners. Education is extremely important; however, each child is an individual and learns at different levels. I do not feel this is for the individual. It is for the masses. We�ve lost our individuality. My child is an individual.
? The education of the child should come first and all indications are that a child of all learning levels would benefit from a consistent routine of education as well as social skills. But please enforce the thought into the parent, if possible, that they evaluate their child and send them when they are ready, not just because they are old enough.
? I believe children need time to be children ? I am afraid we are forcing our children to grow up too fast and that sometimes we expect more from them than they emotionally, intellectually or developmentally are ready to provide. Is school for the convenience of the parents or for the good of the children? Is the purpose of all-day kindergarten for the school to provide daycare for families?
? If we want to really teach, you, the school, needs a full day for the children. Half a day is like tasting, Not eating. Why tease when you can get a full meal?
? Children need to be separated from their parents gently at 5 years old, not be thrown full tilt into a full all-day school away from home. It causes separation anxiety.
? I feel my child would benefit from all day because he wants to go to school and with all the demands in the higher grades, I want him to have any and all the preparation he can get!