Educators say youngsters who spend more classroom hours in kindergarten have an advantage later.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
SALEM -- When city school district officials started an all-day kindergarten last fall they anticipated about a third of eligible youngsters would participate.
But the program has proved much more popular than that.
All but one of the district's nearly 170 kindergartners is now attending all day, although a half-day schedule is still available, Superintendent Dave Brobeck said.
"When people get down to it, they don't want their kids disadvantaged," Brobeck said in explaining the popularity of all-day kindergarten.
Educators have concluded that children who attend all-day kindergarten do better throughout their academic career than youngsters who go a half day, Brobeck explained.
More learning: Being in a classroom all day significantly increases the amount of learning, interaction and socialization to which kindergartners are exposed, he added.
Those elements are the building blocks of a foundation for learning that youngsters rely upon long after they've left kindergarten, Brobeck said.
"It makes for a more consistent program," Patti L'Italien, a kindergarten teacher at Buckeye Elementary, said of the all-day schedule, which she favors.
With a half-day schedule, there just wasn't enough instructional time available, L'Italien said.
Being in the classroom all day seems to make the youngsters "calmer and more relaxed," she added.
The children also adjust well to the longer day with the help of a 15-minute "quiet time" after lunch, L'Italien said.
Added costs: When the school district offered only a half-day program, it had six kindergarten teachers on its employee roster. Adding the all-day schedule necessitated adding five more teachers to the kindergarten staff.
It's costing the district about $45,000 to place all-day kindergarten on its curriculum.
Brobeck explained that the district shifted some teacher positions to ensure there were enough instructors for the new program.
School officials also are funding the effort partly through federal and state grants.