STMA meeting reviews all-day kindergarten

by Samara Postuma

Contributing Writer

 

The St. Michael-Albertville School District recently hosted a kindergarten information night at Albertville Primary School to discuss the district’s plans for all-day kindergarten.

STMA Curriculum Director Ann-Marie Foucault, who is also the primary school principal, and Supt. Jim Behle led the presentation which Foucault explained was to share the current plans and answer parent questions.

Foucault began the meeting by informing parents that while at this point a final decision has not been approved, current proposed plans for 2014-15 do not include a half day kindergarten option. This is due to current changes in kindergarten expectations and the importance of having more time in the classroom.

“The benefits of all-day include great progress, less rush and the ability to personalize instruction,” Foucault told the approximately 80 parents in attendance.

While the school board has reached a consensus, Foucault said the final approval will likely happen at a later board meeting. She will work with families on a case by case basis if a child is not ready for all day.

The expectations and school day for all-day kindergarten is changing from current plans with increased rigor when it comes to language arts and math. The proposed al-day kindergarten schedule includes 120 minutes of language arts and 90 minutes of math each day. Social studies, science and health will be a combined 110 minutes a week. The proposed schedule would also move to a six-day rotation like the other elementary buildings so that there would be three physical education classes, two music classes and one art class each week in addition to computer and media.

“I feel strongly that not only is all day good for kids but it’s good for STMA kids,” Foucault said as she wrapped up her presentation.

As parent question time began, parents specifically asked about why there would be no half day option. Supt. Behle explained that there are “gaps between all day and half day kids.” Foucault followed up by explaining that “internal data shows that full day kids are scoring higher than half day kids” three times a year on testing.

Historically speaking, other schools that switch to a full-day program and continue to offer a half-day program end up discontinuing the half-day program due to disinterest, according to Behle. This is his third experience with a transition from a half-day program to an all-day program.

Along with Behle and Foucault, several kindergarten teachers, both half day and all day and specialists served on a committee to research and make a recommendation to the school board on which direction to go. In addition to the committee, several groups of parents were surveyed including current kindergarten students, Just For Kids and Bright Beginnings preschool parents and district households with appropriately aged children who would be eligible for kindergarten next fall.

While the school district cannot police “redshirting” or the practice of holding students back, the general eligibility factor is that students must meet age by Sept. 1. Foucault reported that there already are families who make the choice to hold back their spring and summer children.

Foucault and Behle will report back some of the comments and concerns from the meeting to the school board at the Dec. 2 meeting and expect a final decision and plan to be put in place in January.

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