All-day kindergarten possible, if parents pay | NevadaAppeal.com

All-day kindergarten possible, if parents pay

Teri Vance
tvance@nevadaappeal.com

A pilot program where parents have been paying $65 a week for all-day kindergarten at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School could be available next year at other schools.

“It was a successful program at Bordewich, and, at this time, we are surveying parents at all sites if they would be interested in the same thing,” said Susan Keema, associate Carson City School District superintendent.

“We’re looking at how we can expand our options in these difficult budget times. We’ve got to be creative, but we’re not making these decisions without community input,” Keema said.

However, school officials are watching closely this week’s special session of the Legislature where Gov. Jim Gibbons is calling for cuts in education spending.

In Nevada, kindergarten is not required, and the Legislature is considering eliminating state funding for all-day kindergarten. If that happens, Keema said, it could hamper plans to increase full-day offerings.

Teacher Michele Cacioppo kicked off the program this year with 27 students. In her nine years teaching kindergarten, she said, she’s seen the priorities change.

She said emphasis has shifted from preparing students to enter school to actually teaching them the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.

“You added that to a two-and-a-half-hour period,” she said. “What you had to take away were some of the those social skills like critical thinking, problem solving, conflict resolution. Those are skills you need for life.”

Bordewich-Bray Elementary School Principal Valerie Dockery told school board members during Tuesday’s meeting that the program was adopted after research showed the benefits of all-day instruction.

“Research shows that children in full-day programs made a 16-month gain in grade-level achievement versus 5.4 months for children in a half-day program,” Dockery said. “Children in full-day programs spend 30 percent more time on reading instruction and 46 percent more time on math than children in half-day programs.”

After the first 109 days of school, students are already starting to show improvement, reported Dockery. Five of the kindergartners are reading at a high level, four at medium high, 10 are classified in the middle and eight are reading at a low level.

The full-day kindergarten has a 4 percent absence rate in comparison to about a

9 percent absence rate of the half-day kindergarten classes at the same school.

“It’s been wonderful,” Dockery said. “I wish we could offer all of our kids full-day kindergarten. It’s a big difference in what you can accomplish during the day.”

Parents and students also told board members the benefits of the program.

Dorine Linn said her son David, 5, would not sit still long enough for anyone to read him a book. Now, that’s his favorite part of school.

“He was a wiggle worm and now he loves to read and write,” she said. “All-day kindergarten has made such a difference for him.”

Will Contine, 6, agreed.

“You just like learn more and you have more fun,” he told board trustees.

In a survey of parents with children in the program, 100 percent of the respondents said full-day kindergarten was more beneficial than a half-day program and that their children would be better prepared for first grade.

This year, before- and after-school care was provided as part of the service. However, Keema said, that would not likely continue in coming years.

“What we learned is that there are other organizations that do that part better than we do,” she said.

As parents sign their children up for next year’s kindergarten, they will be asked if they would be interested in the $65-a-week program.

Scholarships are also available for interested parents who cannot afford the fee.

“There needs to be a balance,” Keema said. “The kindergarten must represent the demographics of the site.”

If a school has enough interested parents, Keema said, the program could be established there. Parents will be notified before the end of this school year.