By Audrey Richardson
Special To The Standard
Woodstock Elementary School is exploring the possibility of a full-day for Kindergarteners in the fall. The issue resurfaced last spring, and WES principal Karen White, along with the WES board, decided that it was time to reconsider the Kindergarten schedule. Currently students attend Kindergarten from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and with the change, students would attend from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
White supports the change and has compiled research to prove the importance of full-day kindergarten. In early November, White sent out a survey to current parents of WES and teacher about the issue and although only 15 parents replied the 11 of them supported the change. On November 28th, White presented her analyzed survey data, along with other research to the school board. The board will meet again on December 12th and make their final decision on January 12.
Although a final decision is pending, White has support from the school board and is optimistic for the change. “From the Board’s perspective, it makes sense and it is a great need in the community,” said Paige Hiller, Chairperson of the WES school board. Although full-day kindergarten adds a significant amount of time to the school day for youngsters, White assures that the change is not about overloading students or providing a daycare service. White believes that adding time to the school day is an important component for student comprehension, improved transitions as well as preparation for higher-grade levels.
“A review was conducted of educational research summaries regarding the effect of full-day versus half-day kindergarten programs. In general, children benefit academically, socially, and emotionally from full-day programs. Children from “disadvantaged” backgrounds appear to benefit the most,” explained White on the WES website. According to White, some research shows the scholastic benefits of full-day kindergarten resonating up to the third grade.
White is unfamiliar with any other schools in Vermont that only offer half-day kindergarten and claims that it a statewide trend.
“It is fairly common,” said White about full-day kindergarten across the state. As it is, WES has an extended half-day which adds an hour on to traditional half-day programs.
White’s proposal for a new full-day structure includes components that she considers more “developmentally appropriate” such as rest time, increased play time and an emphasis on nature. She is not worried about student stamina as currently most kindergarten students have been or continue to be in daycare or preschool before and during kindergarten. “There is so much that goes into this decision and every family is different. You have to look and the consensus and that consensus tells us that we are moving in the right direction,” said Hiller.
White’s concern has grown since occurrence of No Child Left Behind, worrying that kindergarten teachers are forced to push too much information into a half day. White feels that full-day would relax the pace for both students and teachers. “It’s not about cramming what you can into the day. What’s important is being thoughtful about what you do with the time,” said White.
Some parents are worried that full-day kindergarten will be more overwhelming than the daycare alternative, but White believes it will bring more consistency and structure to their day. “So many parents have to juggle kindergarten and daycare. Why not have a more consistent program with a licensed teacher?” asked White. White also believes that providing this service will alleviate some of the financial burden of daycare on working families. “We are doing this to provide daycare, but 11 children already go to afterschool care and we can’t ignore that either,” said White.
As of now, the school plans to move forward with the change pending the board’s decision. Both Hiller and White agree that the popular vote is in favor of full-day, but that the fiscal component must also be in check. “The decision is recommended for next year and we are currently trying to develop a budget that will accommodate that,” said White. The board’s decision will take place in an open session on January 9.
To read White’s full report to the board visit wes.wcsu.net.
This article first appeared in the December 15th edition of the Vermont Standard.