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Worn-out children have transitioned to wide-eyed learners by the end of the first year of all-day kindergarten at Grant County and Williamstown schools.
Both school districts began all-day kindergarten classes in August, and, despite an adjustment period, teachers believe the change has paid off.
“At the beginning of the year, both teachers and students seemed tired by the end of the day,” said Jackie Crupper, Mason-Corinth Elementary School kindergarten teacher. “We did have a little rest time planned in our schedule at the beginning of the year and we have already been able to phase that out.”
“We have added entertainer to our resume now,” she said. “Being with these little ones all day, sometimes you have to pull tricks out of your hat to keep their attention.”
Heather Forman, kindergarten teacher at Crittenden-Mount Zion Elementary School, described the first few days as “a mixture of laughter and tears as some of my students adjusted to coming to school for the first time.”
“As those days progressed to weeks, we had more smiles and less tears, and spent time learning the routines of the classroom,” she said.
Keeping the students from losing concentration during a full day was an initial challenge, said Julie Stanley, Williamstown Elementary School kindergarten teacher.
“In the beginning, we observed that the students had a hard time staying focused by the end of the day, but as the weeks progressed, the students began to get into the routine and were able to focus and complete assignments all the way to the end of the day,” she said. “The students are resilient and have transitioned well into the full-day program at this point.”
Initially, Grant County Schools Superintendent Michael Hibbett was not sure about all-day kindergarten.
“To be frank, I wasn’t totally convinced at first,” he said. “But, academically, 5-year-olds, almost 6-year-olds, are probably at the stage now where those guys probably need to have all their reading skills ready to go by the time they get to first grade. All-day kindergarten seemed to be a way to resolve some of those issues.
“We had a pretty successful program, the LEAP and REAP program that was sort of like all-day kindergarten for kids who needed more help,” Hibbett said. “That really kind of inspired us because that program worked great.”
Grant County had to add a couple of teachers and aides while Williamstown needed only one new teacher to make the transition from half-day to all-day kindergarten.
Williamstown Independent Schools, which was one of the first districts in the state to offer kindergarten in the old city building, had been planning to move to all-day kindergarten for years, said Superintendent Charles Ed Wilson.
“We felt that a major barrier was that we needed a facility,” he said. “So, over the last six years we’ve been able to construct this Early Learning Center.
“Most progressive districts in the nation offer all-day kindergarten because all of the research states that kids who’ve had all-day kindergarten are better prepared to read, socially adjust and better able to learn tasks,” Wilson said.
The additional time with the students has been the biggest benefit, said Lori Dawalt, Sherman Elementary kindergarten teacher.
With more time to complete activities and for individual instruction, she said the quality also has been better.
“Each day the students are expressing how much they are learning,” Dawalt said. “We just had parent conferences and it was amazing to see the progress of many of the students. The parents are happy with their child’s progress as well.”
Dry Ridge Elementary kindergarten teacher Carmen Lockard said she had to learn to pace herself and realize that she had more time to expand on the subject she was teaching.
“I feel that our students will make greater gains in their academic achievement and in their social development,” she said. “This is a wonderful opportunity for our students and hopefully we will see the benefits for many years to come with providing our youngest of students the best start to their educational process and instilling in them the love of learning.”