All-day K?

Some say costs outweigh benefits

As Moffat County School District begins its budget process, local kindergarten teachers have one request -- full-day kindergarten.

It's a request they've made for several years.

"Every year, we write it down," East Elementary School teacher Tiffany Trevenen said. "Ten years ago, I was teaching kindergarten; now I'm teaching what I used to in first grade."

But Trevenen said teachers know exactly what's keeping the district from implementing a full-day kindergarten schedule -- money.

"We have to get the Legislature to realize that if they want test scores to go up, we need to fund all-day kindergarten," she said.

Public split

Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan said conversations about offering full-day kindergarten never went far because of financial considerations.

He estimates that the conversion would cost the district more than $180,000 a year. The state reimburses the school district $5,711 per full-time pupil and half that for kindergarten students.

Funding full-time kindergarten would mean cutting other programs, Sheridan said.

Also, the public is split on whether it wants full-time kindergarten, Sheridan said.

The results of a parent survey conducted in February at East Elementary School confirm that.

Principal Diana Cook estimates that 50 percent to 60 percent of parents said they would like to see full-time kindergarten offered.

For some, the issue is convenience.

Academic performance

It's difficult for a working parent to interrupt his or her day to drop children off or pick them up at school, Cook said.

Because kindergarten is not required, the district does not provide transportation specifically for students with a half-day schedule. Students attending school in the morning can ride the bus to school, but not home. Students attending afternoon classes have the option of riding a bus home.

Others argue that the change would improve academic performance. Cook said some studies show that by third or fourth grade, academic performance levels off regardless of whether a student has attended full-day kindergarten. Sheridan said other studies indicate that, among fifth-graders, students who attended full-day kindergarten are ahead academically.

But most studies focus more on the social aspects of all-day kindergarten than the academic benefits.

Social skills

Cook taught kindergarten in full-day and half-day settings.

"I much prefer all-day kindergarten because then you had time for that social aspect," she said.

Cook said so much instruction is crammed into three hours that there's little time for students to develop social skills.

"If you ever looked at a kindergarten teacher's schedule, you'd be amazed at what they get done in the time they have," Cook said.

'It's frustrating'

Trevenen said the kindergarten curriculum has the same number of objectives as the first-grade curriculum, but teachers have three hours less each day to teach it.

"It's frustrating," she said. "It's frustrating for the kids and frustrating for me."

The change must be initiated on the state level, Sheridan said. He said he thinks the state would provide funding if there was a preponderance of evidence about the benefits of full-day kindergarten.

Studies show that additional time in kindergarten benefits students who are considered by educators as "at risk" for failure because of social or academic delays.

To help at-risk students, the state gives school districts additional money to provide "extended" kindergarten, which adds as much as two hours to a student's day. But the state has strict guidelines about how those funds are used, Sheridan said.

"That funding is specifically for kids with at-risk factors," he said.

Those students account for 10 percent to 15 percent of the 188-student kindergarten class, Sheridan said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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