Full-day kindergarten welcomed at local elementaries

       Until this year, Howbert Elementary parents had unsuccessfully fund-raised multiple times in efforts to fund full-day kindergarten. Jackson Elementary had a grant for full-day in 2004-05 and lost it in '05-06.
       Meanwhile, according to Elaine Naleski of School District 11, “a lot of Westside people went from the Westside to Manitou schools because they had full-day kindergarten and we didn't.”
       Both Howbert and Jackson have been able to offer full-day K this year with interim district help that was made available to about a quarter of the district's elementaries. The other seven Westside schools have already been able to offer full-time kindergarten in recent years, as long as they continued to qualify annually for state Title 1 assistance provided to schools with high numbers of students from low-income families.
       The intent is to end such year-to year uncertainties starting with the 2007-08 school year, when D-11 will permanently fund full-day kindergarten at all its elementaries.
       “It's something we've been wanting to do for several years now,” Naleski said of the recent Board of Education decision. “It's been the principals' number-one priority.” The priority stems from research, she explained indicating that “the sooner we can get children in school, the better they're going to be.”
       “Expectations are higher than when we went to school,” commented Jackson Principal Anne Dancy. “When we were kids, kindergarters mostly played. Kids that age are reading now.”
       The district was able to find the necessary money from savings in the 2000 mill levy's transportation costs. The levy was to purchase additional school buses and drivers - but time economizing made that unnecessary, Naleski said.
       The main reason for full-day K is to get students started on basic education at a younger age. The earlier exposure gives them a better chance of scoring higher later on.
       “This is something we've needed quite a while,” Howbert Elementary Principal David Morris said. “To meet Colorado state standards, you need more time in the day.”
       Having full-day is introducing the children to reading and math in ways that were not possible in a shorter day. “Practically all our kindergarteners are reading at mid- first-grade level now,” he said. “By the time they get out of school this year, they may be at the second-grade level. And even those that aren't - and it's just a couple of them - will be able to get help to address their needs.”
       Ever since the decision was finalized at the March 21 school board meeting, the feedback has been “very positive,” Naleski reported. “The only negative comments have been from one person who wanted to know why the district was “using money for babysitters” and from “a lady who had to pay for full-time this year and wanted her money back.”
       Despite his enthusiasm, Morris has sympathy for youngsters who may not be emotionally ready for full-day kindergarten. He's enjoyed the flexibility this year of being able to offer both this year, but next year it's literally all or nothing (since kindergarten attendance is actually not a state requirement) at his school.
       The district will only offer half-day next year at a few geographically correct schools. The closest for Westsiders will be Trailblazer, but they will need to apply for a permit and provide their own transportation.To be eligible for kindergarten, students must be 5 years old by Oct. 1, 2007.
       Kindergarten registration will be Friday, April 27 at the different D-11 elementaries. Parents should call their neighborhood schools to find out exact times.

Westside Pioneer article