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Archive for Friday, March 16, 2001

More all-day kindergartens recommended

March 16, 2001

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All-day kindergarten would expand to Woodlawn and Pinckney schools under a proposal submitted Thursday to the Lawrence school district's budget committee.

The recommendation from a study group was taken under advisement by members of the budget committee, some of whom expressed reluctance about expansion of a program in 2001-02 during lean budget times without direct evidence it would help students. It would require the hiring of one extra teacher, which costs the district an average of $41,000 in salary and benefits.

"If we're going to reallocate resources, we want to make sure we get something back," Supt. Randy Weseman said.

The group's request is timely, since Gov. Bill Graves this week asked the Legislature to raise taxes to improve financing of public education, including creation of all-day kindergarten classes throughout the state.

Currently, all-day kindergarten is offered at five Lawrence elementary schools. About 200 students are served at Kennedy, East Heights, New York, Riverside and Cordley schools.

Approximately 500 kindergartners at the district's 14 other elementary schools are in half-day programs.

Terry Tuckwin, a Woodlawn kindergarten teacher who co-chaired the study group, said Woodlawn and Pinckney were recommended for all-day programs because both schools already had full-day preschool programs. It's awkward for these children to attend school all day as preschoolers and then half a day as kindergartners, she said.

"It's moving away from what is developmentally appropriate," said co-chair Lesa Frantz, principal at Pinckney.

Frantz said there was no doubt in her mind kindergartners would benefit academically and socially by spending the entire day in public school. It provides teachers more time to deepen students' grasp of the curriculum, she said.

Centennial School also has a full-day preschool and half-day kindergarten, but Frantz and Tuckwin's group didn't recommend expansion there because the school doesn't have space for another classroom. It's beyond the group's scope to delve into facilities issues, Tuckwin said.

Meanwhile, the group proposed the district form a task force to study the curriculum of full-day and half-day kindergarten classes. There is concern it's not coordinated with preschool and first-grade curriculum.

"That really bothers me," said Austin Turney, a school board member on the budget panel.

Other concerns were raised about potential cost of transporting students to kindergarten. In addition, the potential for a flood of transfer requests from half-day to full-day programs was raised.

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