Wednesday Mail Bag: All Day Kindergarten

Ever wonder why something is the way it is? Have a question as to how to get something done within the boundaries of our Valley? Valleypedia is your venue to ask it. Over time, our hope is that the “Valleypedia” page becomes something of an community encyclopedia – an ongoing guide to living in Carson Valley. Have a question? We’ll do our very best to find the answer. Here’s the latest question, with special thanks to Douglas County School District Superintendent Lisa Noonan for her help with the answer:

Q: We just got a letter from my child’s school stating that all day kindergarten is now free. But it is unclear whether it is optional, or are all our schools moving to full time kindergarten? What does this mean for our kids’ schedules? What does the program entail, and how will our teachers fill the extra time?”

A: State law stipulates that education in Nevada is a requirement beginning at age 7. So, technically, kindergarten – whether half-day or full-day – is optional in itself.

Beginning this coming school year (2013-14), all public schools in Douglas County will offer only full-day kindergarten after testing at several district schools revealed positive feedback. The full-day program will be free (deposits had initially been accepted for a tuition program before the county finalized financing for the program across the board. Any deposits that had been paid will be refunded to the families that paid them).

“We’re excited to offer full-day kindergarten,” Douglas County School District Superintendent Lisa Noonan said. “We’ve never been able to offer it across the board for every student until this year.

“State funding made a lot of this possible and we were able to do some patch-working with grants and categorical funds. Because of that, we’re able offer it at no extra charge to the parents. Our hope is that this type of programming will make students more competitive on a national scale long term.”

Some common concerns about full-day kindergarten involve the students’ attention spans being able to handle the longer day developmentally.

“I think what we’ve seen is that teachers have more time to explore topics and concepts with the students,” Noonan said. “They are not having to hurry though it. This goes beyond reading and writing. It’s being able to have learning stations where the children are learning social and developmental skills throughout the day. We saw that the children had more time to interact with and explore what they were learning. We also got to touch a little bit more on science and social studies than we used to.”

Early surveys from parents during the last year have been positive. Noonan said the most telling responses were from parents who had older children who’d gone through half-day kindergarten.

“The learning was more comprehensive in full-day kindergarten. My child is ready to continue to first grade,” one response said.

One parent commented that their child was reading at almost a second-grade level after a year of full-day kindergarten. Another mentioned that it seemed like there was less homework, because more was completed at school. Still another spoke of a stronger development in speech.

“I’m hoping this program lasts for my next daughter,” one survey said. “I hope they are able to offer this at all of the schools.”

Another mentioned that they would have gladly paid for the program.

“We saw a lot of compliments for the teachers themselves, and those were well-deserved, as they are for all our teachers,” Noonan said. “Some negatives we saw were concerning the class size. We are aiming for the low-20s and they were in the high-20s.”

Noonan said she is keenly interested to see the feedback from first-grade teachers this year about last year’s full-day students.

“I think that’s where we’ll start to get the full picture of what this program does,” she said. “I was part of the Washoe County system when they implemented full-day kindergarten and the first-grade teachers would talk about how they could just start on day one and hit the ground running with those students. It made a difference. We’re hoping to see the same type of results in Douglas County.”

Noonan said she’d be available to answer any questions or concerns about the program during the summer months, although she will be out of the office next week (July 15-19). She can be reached at 782-5134.

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