Full-day kindergarten makes sense

DALLAS -- It is becoming more common for American elementary schools to offer all-day kindergarten instead of half-day classes.



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Kindergarten student Alyson Jones works with teaching assistant Karen Benfit on spelling and writing during an afternoon class session at Oakdale Elementary School in Dallas.

DALLAS -- It is becoming more common for American elementary schools to offer all-day kindergarten instead of half-day classes.

The Dallas School District, like many Oregon districts, is considering this option and all its inherent costs.

"The general feeling among the primary school teachers when I speak to them is that they would love to see us institute all-day kindergarten," said Cory Bradshaw, title I coordinator for the Dallas School District.

Bradshaw said kindergarten teachers are starting to focus more on academics, like early reading skills. So for kids who don't receive that kind of basic literacy at home, all-day kindergarten can give them a step up.

"Kids who come from less-advantaged backgrounds often benefit from all-day kindergarten because they are being exposed to skills that they wouldn't otherwise learn," Bradshaw said.

Dallas School Superintendent Christy Perry said she too would like to see Dallas extend its kindergarten, but she doesn't see it happening too soon.

"Right now it is a facility issue, and of course a funding issue," Perry said. "We don't have the classroom space. To give every child full-day kindergarten we would need one or two more classrooms in each elementary building - and our elementary buildings are at capacity."

The cost is also a big factor. All-day kindergarten classes would cost an estimated additional $612,000.

While funding and space are the hurdles, Bradshaw said she "can't honestly think of any real drawbacks to all-day kindergarten. I know that there are some parents who would prefer to have their young child home for part of the day, but ... parents who are able to stay home with their children are fewer and fewer in numbers."

Studies examining the pros and cons of all-day classes bear that out - the reality of both parents needing to work full-time is cited as a big reason for their support of having their kids in class during that time.

Another reason is the belief that starting children in all-day kindergarten better prepares them for the first grade.

Summer Keightley, a West Salem mother of two, said, "To a point, kids develop socially at different rates, and in kindergarten that is very obvious. "I can think of a good number of kids from both of my children's kindergarten classes who would be able to sit through a whole day of school with no problem.

"At the other end of the spectrum are the kids that can barely sit through the 2.5 hours of regular kindergarten (and that includes recess)."

Keightley said that if the school day was broken up with a great deal of attention paid to the various developmental needs of every child, all-day kindergarten would work.

"The schedule would have to be arranged in such a way that the kids get lots of decompression time," she said. "It's hard to get first graders to stay on task all day, I'm sure it would be even more difficult for kindergartens."

Superintendent Perry said the school district is looking at all these issues and is always open to hearing the views of more parents.



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