Archive for Monday, January 22, 2007

District ponders many variables in all-day kindergarten equation

January 22, 2007


It's the nice shiny apple Lawrence's school board would like to sit on the public's desk: all-day kindergarten.

"It would give us time to do justice to all the things we need to be teaching: science, social studies, possibly more in-depth language arts and more math," says Chris Heider, who teaches two half-day sections of kindergarten at Langston Hughes School.

"Every subject area we could probably cover a little more thoroughly," Heider said.

But all-day kindergarten is a costly apple to harvest, with price tags of $75 million to implement statewide and about $1 million locally.

So it's more likely that all-day kindergarten will be served up in smaller slices over the next few years, at least at the state level, several officials have said.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has proposed phasing in all-day kindergarten over five years, dedicating a fifth of the cost for the first year, or $15 million.

The idea is to make it more palatable for state lawmakers this year.

But such an approach doesn't translate well to how local school districts can implement it, says Randy Weseman, superintendent of Lawrence's public schools.

Weseman explained that this year, the state picks up the cost of sending kindergartners for half a day. The governor's five-year plan calls for the state to initially pick up six-tenths of the cost needed for kindergarten, he said.

"That's a step forward, and I am certainly encouraged by that," Weseman said. However, that doesn't mean Lawrence can go from a half-day program to a six-tenths of a day program, he said.

"We have to do either a half-day or a full-day program, one of the two. We can't do a six-tenths program," he said.

If the Lawrence school district wants to implement all-day kindergarten, it must pick up the remaining local costs, or about $800,000.

"Until it's fully phased in, we have to come up with extra dollars that aren't state-supported to fund a full-day program," Weseman said. "Phasing it in still requires school districts to pull it out of their budget."

Funding priorities

Currently about two-thirds of school districts in Kansas have all-day kindergarten, which means property owners in those districts are paying for half the cost.

"Every school district has its own unique situation," Weseman said. Because the majority of the state's school districts have fewer than 1,000 students, offering all-day kindergarten might be easier for them than districts with more than 10,000 students, such as Lawrence, he said.

"For us, it's a facilities issue, in some respect. For us, it's mostly a general fund issue," Weseman said. "We've chosen to spend money in other areas and tried to keep our costs down."

He said the district had been trying to catch up on teachers' salaries and keep class sizes low for the last few years.

"That's where most of our money's been going," he said.

Six or seven schools

Depending on what the Legislature does, there has been some discussion about bringing all-day kindergarten to at least some Lawrence schools.

Five years ago, the district offered all-day kindergarten at five schools that had high concentrations of low-income families, making them eligible for federal Title I funding.

Some school board members have said - depending on the available funding next year - that is an approach the board might consider again.

Plans are being discussed for bringing all-day kindergarten to six or seven such schools, said Bruce Passman, deputy superintendent.

"We're proceeding with some planning," Passman said. "In the event there are resources available, we want to be able to move forward."

'Schools benefit'

Langston Hughes School kindergartner Lauren Hoppe climbs across a net during a game of "swamp" in the school gymnasium. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius wants to gradually phase in all-day kindergarten classes over the next five years in Kansas public schools. In Lawrence, more specifics on funding are needed before the district can determine how widespread the implementation might be.

Langston Hughes School kindergartner Lauren Hoppe climbs across a net during a game of "swamp" in the school gymnasium. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius wants to gradually phase in all-day kindergarten classes over the next five years in Kansas public schools. In Lawrence, more specifics on funding are needed before the district can determine how widespread the implementation might be.

Vicki Penner, a member of the New York School site council, has presented a letter to the school board asking for all-day kindergarten.

That letter, which was also signed by representatives of several other school site councils, encouraged the board to consider providing all-day kindergarten in at least some schools.

"Studies have shown that children in lower-income schools really benefit," Penner said. "It helps those kids as much or more than those at other schools."

Another parent, Sally Kelsey, chairwoman of the Cordley School site council, said she would withhold judgment on the governor's plan until she could find out whether that money would be earmarked specifically for kindergarten and which schools would be funded.

"My preference would be to make sure that Title I schools get some attention," she said.

Time constraints force teachers to juggle subjects

Having more time to teach a class of 5-year-olds would make a kindergarten teacher's job easier, said Chris Heider, who is in her first year of teaching kindergarten at Langston Hughes School. Heider taught second-graders in a full-day class setting for 16 years. Now she has 19 students in her morning half-day kindergarten class and 18 students in her afternoon class. She starts with a 60- to 90-minute language-arts block, followed by recess. Next come a story and math for another 30 or 40 minutes. "Somewhere in there, too, you kind of pull in science and social studies," Heider said. "And I don't get those in every day, that's for sure." Sometimes math or language arts is shorter to fit in science and social studies. Then students go to recess, art or music for about 25 minutes. Finally, the day is finished with whatever topic they couldn't squeeze in the day before, she said. Heider also tries weekly to get students to the library and computer lab, but they often run out of time. All-day kindergarten would help her incorporate more subjects, she said. "I really have mixed emotions about it, if you want to know the truth," Heider said. "Part of me says, you know, they're 5 years old. They're going to be in school an awfully long time, for the rest of their life. "But also, there are so many things that we need to present to them. The curriculum is getting so intense that you need to get started at age 5. It's kind of a Catch-22."


lelly 11 years, 1 month ago

I support all-day kindergarten but hope there is an allowed "opt-out". Children are small only once. I'd prefer to keep my kids at half-day for one more year before I hand them over to the school full time.

Nikki May 11 years, 1 month ago

If only low income schools get it, I am sure that parents will transfer their children, or lie about where they live or whatever, to get them into full day school. When we had some at full day in the past, I know several students that didn't go to the school where they live.

Dale Stringer 11 years, 1 month ago

Free all day child care. Yeah! Next thing we know, kids can go to kindergarden when they turn 3 to an all year school.

rubix 11 years, 1 month ago

I agree with many on this. It will be overused as an all day day-care option for most parents. The convenience of not having to make arrangements for the well being of your child just so you can save a buck and tell people how noble you are for having your child 'so advanced' and 'in a structred setting' seems to outweigh the meaning of all kindergarten. My son will be in kindergarten next year, and I question the intent of some parents. These kids will be in school for the next 12-18 years of thier life; let them be kids while they can. An opt out program is a good idea.

salad 11 years, 1 month ago

Save a buck?!?! How about save $6000 a year in daycare per kid! How fortuneate for you, rubix, that you can obviously afford to stay home with your kid and that a years day care is "a buck" to you. effing rich people! The rest of us have to have both parents work just to get by. 1/2 day kindergarten is a nightmare in logistics. I don't know how we'll do it. Bring on the full kindergarten!

Kelly Anderson 11 years, 1 month ago

I am soooo sick of hearing how people think that the idea of all day kindergarten is a cop out for parents to use it as a day care option. I have talked at length with the kindergarten teachers and parents about this issue and not one of them even mentioned the fact that is was because they needed a cheaper version of day care. I am on my 2nd child in kindergarten and I see a difference from going all day to pre school and then suddenly going to half day and I tell you, it is exhausting for them. The teachers even say how they have to cram in so much learning into half days they feel like they don't get to know their students because they have to get them in, learn and get them out and then get prepared for the next class and do it all over again. I fully support full day kindergarten, I am just sad that my children will not have the opportunity to enjoy it with their teachers.

mjk123 11 years, 1 month ago

Fortunately for our school district we have all day kindergarten. My son was the first group offered this option 2 years ago and now my daughter is K and is thriving. The difference in the quality of the education they receive is huge. I have a nephew the same age as my son and he attended 1/2 day K in Lawrence. The differences in what the learned and knew at the end of the school year. They are able to take their time and really focus on indvidual subjects. They do have long days, but they also make it fun, and do remember the kids are young. I am a firm beleiver that all day kindergarten is awesome. And my opinion has NOTHING to do with daycare costs. It has to do with the quality education my children have received. Thanks USD343!!!

Nikki May 11 years, 1 month ago

Actually, we are one of the few countries that waits this long to get our kids into school. Tons of my Canadian friends have had their kids in school for a year or two and they are the same age as my son. He won't start until next year. They have jr. kindergarten and sr. kindergarten (for 4 and then 5 year olds). Of course, that doesn't mean we NEED to follow suit, it just means, that it CAN be done.

Confrontation 11 years, 1 month ago

Perhaps we need an "Idiots guide to suriving all-day K." This guide will be for the parents, of course. I went to an all-day K, and I survived. People who say scary and clingy stuff like, "Children are small only once. I'd prefer to keep my kids at half-day for one more year before I hand them over to the school full time," really need to put their kid's education above the parent's feeling of "losing my baby." If Kindergarten started a year later, these parents would be saying the same thing. Millions of kids are surviving all-day K. Why should Lawrence kids be wimps?

Dayna Lee 11 years, 1 month ago

Please say NO to all day Kindergarden! Let parents have a chance to teach their own kids!

NTBC 11 years, 1 month ago

Folks who post here complaining about parents wanting free day care just don't understand. I have a daughter in Kindergarten. This is the start of the 2nd week in a row that they haven't had recess. Not because of the weather (if it's bad, they will have indoor recess). I mean no recess at all. They are just too busy. Day care is my problem, I get that. It was my choice to have a child; therefore I have to pay for the day care. However, there is a bigger issue here and it has nothing to do with day care. Teachers are forced to cram in an unbelievable amount of things in the few hours the child spends there each day. If we would stop talking about day care long enough to determine whether or not a child truly benefits from additional time in school at this age, we might actually get somewhere on this topic.

conservative 11 years, 1 month ago

Another factor that makes 1/2 day kindergarten a problem is for the working parents. In my case as a single father it was very difficult arranging my work schedule so that I could pick up my child and take them to the daycare where they would spend the rest of the day. Some days I would pick up my child and another, and on other days that childs parents would do the carpooling. However the fact that the children got out at 11:15 made it a burden to me and to my employer.

I could have forgone kindergarten for my children (yes Dayna38 Kindergarten is not required in this state, if you want to keep them home and teach them you can) and kept them in all day daycare, but I thought the socialization with children they would be going to school with for the next 6 years was more important.

Even though my children are past the point where all day kindergarten will affect them I support it fully.

bunnyhoover 11 years, 1 month ago

In response to Dayna31, if you want to "let parents have a chance to teach their own kids!" then homeschool them -- then you can keep your babies home as long as you like. The Lawrence Virtual School is a very nice program. For the parents who wish for all-day kindergarten, who has the right to label them as free-loaders who just want free daycare? Until you've walked in each person's shoes, don't presume to know their reasons for the decisions they make for their children, and decide whether they are noble enough reasons for you.

I agree with NTBC - look at the benefits of an all-day program. The data is out there. Lawrence is behind the times when it comes to all-day K, especially for a town that should be known for its stress on the importance of education.

George_Braziller 11 years, 1 month ago

What is the curriculum for Kindergarten today? I don't have kids so I really don't know. When I was in Kindergarten in the mid-sixties, that was where you learned socializing, colors, numbers, the alphabet, tying your shoes, etc. I think that now you have to know all of that before entering.

SoundMind 11 years, 1 month ago

Those of you who wish to keep your children at home longer may certainly do so. School attendance in Kansas isn't compulsory until a child is seven years old. See K.S.A. 72-1111.

Confrontation 11 years, 1 month ago

Dayna38: Based on your posts today, I would give you an award for the "Parent whose kids would most benefit by being away from a psycho parent and in all-day K."

budwhysir 11 years, 1 month ago

I love this, I must have missed the part of people sending thier kids to kindergarten as a sub for daycare. I have never seen an article that shows this is what the school district is proposing. Wouldnt these people be against 1/2 day kindergarten and other primary grades also.

HMMMM made you think didnt I. Think it out, get back to me.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.