As a way to increase student achievement, the Moffat County School District will begin the process of implementing full-day kindergarten.
Superintendent Pete Bergmann received approval from the Moffat County School Board during its meeting Thursday to begin the process to bring full-day kindergarten to the district.
More than 15 parents were in attendance to hear the proposal, which, if approved, would take effect next fall.
The program will cost the district an additional $180,000 to $200,000, if approved.
"When we reconfigure our elementary schools, we will be able to accommodate all-day kindergarten," Bergmann said. "Last year, elementary principals and kindergarten teachers were able to meet regularly to research and develop the all-day program."
Bergmann said he had received support for the program throughout the district.
"The teachers, principals and administration all came to the conclusion that all-day kindergarten is the best early intervention program we could implement," Bergmann said.
Bergmann said there was growing support throughout Colorado for all-day kindergarten programs, noting that Moffat County currently is the only district in the state that does not offer all-day kindergarten.
Adding the extra time to the school day would be fine for students, Bergmann said, so long as it didn't resemble a first-grade curriculum.
"Five-year-olds can handle a full day in school," he said. "It just needs to be age appropriate."
Offering a full day of classes also allows the students more time to interact, giving them much-needed social skills, Bergmann said.
"The longer day will give students more time to focus on activities - they aren't constantly being shuffled from one activity to the next," he said.
The additional time in class would help students develop skills as they moved forward with their educational careers, Bergmann said.
"From research we gathered on the NEA (National Education Association) Web site, it been shown that children enrolled in all-day kindergarten classes show greater gains reading and mathematics than students in half-day classes," Bergmann said. "All-day kindergarten could be a benefit to all students, especially to low-income and minority students."
Zack Allen, Sunset Elementary School principal, said the extra time spent in school could potentially create savings.
"For every $1 invested, there would be a savings of $3," he said. "Investing in a child's social, emotional and intellectual skills early-on will lead to lower grade retention and dropout rates later on."
The School Board has yet to decide where the money will come from, or if the program will be optional.
Allen said funding options for full-day kindergarten included the mill levy freeze Supreme Court decision, which would phase in state revenue, and using federal stimulus money to grant every student a partial scholarship.
With the stimulus tuition aid, the rate would be $100 a month per student. Without the stimulus money, the tuition would cost $230 per month.
Allen said the added time in the classroom allows teachers more time to focus on specific areas for longer and more in-depth studying.
"Identifying learning challenges early will save money over the long-term," Allen said. "Teachers will be able to develop a deeper relationship with the students and be able to identify their learning challenges earlier."
Allen said one of the disadvantages of full-day kindergarten is a loss of scheduling.
"We would lose quite a bit of flexibility in our schedule, but that's a con we're willing to take on."
Allen said the NEA has policy priorities for full-day kindergarten, including mandatory attendance, teacher certification and class sizes of 15 students.
During the April School Board meeting, the board will decide the funding options.