- Chat about Lawrence schools' implementation of all-day kindergartenSubmit a question
- 6News video: Schools selected for 'All-Day K' begin preparing for the new program (05-15-07)
- 8 schools get all-day kindergarten (05-15-07)
- 6News video: 'All-day K' gets unanimous approval (05-14-07)
- County lags far behind peers for early childhood programs (04-24-07)
Kim Bodensteiner, Chief Academic Officer for Lawrence public schools, talks about preparations for all-day kindergarten classes at eight schools this fall.
Ben Hoopes, 5, felt a lot better when he learned his school day's exact length.
"He thought it was morning, afternoon and evening," said his mother, Linda Hoopes.
But once he found out his class time at Cordley School will end in the afternoon beginning this fall, Ben showed enthusiasm.
He will be one of more than 300 students in Lawrence involved in the return of all-day kindergarten to eight of the district's public schools.
Thanks to about $600,000 in funding from the state, district leaders targeted eight schools based on needs demonstrated by assessment test scores and populations of students who receive free and reduced-price lunches. Administrators have indicated they hope to eventually expand it to all schools.
"We think there's an academic benefit as well as a social benefit for children," said Kim Bodensteiner, the district's chief academic officer.
The district offered all-day kindergarten at several schools from 1998 to 2001 but cut it because of budget constraints.
Bodensteiner said with more mandates put on student achievement, having a longer kindergarten school day allows students to get more exposure to math, language arts and other activities. It's also expected to benefit children from low-income families, English as a second language students and those who work with specialists.
For half-day kindergarten, "it was just really hard to get all of that into a few hours in the morning," she said.
"There's more continuity in the teaching and learning for kids," said Kim Gamble, who will teach the all-day class at New York School. "There's a lot more time for in-depth exploration of things. Before, we were always rushing things to get through them."
But administrators expect, like the beginning of any school year, it will require some adjustment for parents and students.
"There's still a pit in my heart. I don't really want my son to go," said Hoopes, Ben's mother.
Hoopes said the family worries about Ben losing some unstructured time at a young age. She is a social worker who spends part of her day at home, and her husband, Brad, teaches piano lessons from home.
The family thought hard about the district's option to have students attend for only a half day at a full-day school, but they believed it would put Ben at a disadvantage.
Bodensteiner said only a couple of parents at each school appear to be considering the half-day option. She also said it looked unlikely based on class size that any students will be able to transfer into a full-day kindergarten from a school that offers only half-day.
Shanon Flowers, a co-program director at Sunshine Acres Montessori Center, 2141 Maple Lane, said the center has restructured its program and scaled back its private kindergarten. The center is in the area near three schools - Prairie Park, Cordley and Kennedy - that will have full-day kindergarten classes.
"Because we are more of a preschool, I really don't think it's going to affect us. We've regrouped, and it's not going to be that bad," Flowers said.
Last year, Sunshine Acres had a class of 24 kindergartners. The center serves 100 children and still will have more than 20 employees, she said.
Flowers said as a parent, she was excited about public all-day kindergarten, but one concern for her was how parents could handle after-school care during the time from the end of school until a work day's end. Bodensteiner said some after-school programs may see more kindergartners who would normally attend a morning class and then go to a day care.
Hoopes and Gamble, the New York School teacher, said parents who have had children in day care during the day appear to be the most enthusiastic about full-day classes.
"For parents, some of the positives for many of them is they are not going to have to make those arrangements about having to get children picked up in the middle of a workday and get them transported somewhere else," Bodensteiner said.
Of the 18 full-day kindergarten teachers, six were newly hired to the district, two teachers transferred from teaching other grades in Lawrence schools, and 10 others taught kindergarten last year. The only major change for teachers is they will spend all day with one class instead of splitting mornings and afternoons between two groups.