SL schools poised for full-day kindergarten

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:23 AM

Committee members and district leaders will also present informational sessions to parents and answer questions at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 28-29, at the Spring Lake Middle School auditorium.

Beginning this fall, kindergartners at Jeffers and Holmes elementary schools will attend school all day, every day.

Grand Haven Public Schools is also switching to full-time kindergarten with the 2012-13 school year.

“The state will no longer provide full foundation allowance for half-day kindergarten programs,” said Spring Lake Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Furton, adding that kindergartner schedules will run concurrent with other elementary grades beginning next school year — in excess of 1,098 hours per year.

Furton said many parents and educators are excited about the 8:35 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. kindergarten school day because of increased learning opportunities.

“We’ll have more time, and time is a significant factor with learning,” Furton said. “We’ll be able to engage the students in more language arts, math and social studies — which will be beneficial to their development. We will also have ample time for constructive play, which you can’t do in a half-day program.”

Furton said he thinks the benefits will go beyond academics.

“I believe this will also benefit students socially and emotionally,” the superintendent said. “We’re going to have to wait and see, and measure how things change in terms of preparedness for first grade. The greatest gift in the world you can give them is to start school on the right foot.”

Although the Spring Lake school board must formally vote on the matter in March, Furton said the switch to full-time kindergarten is nearly a certainty because of educational incentives and financial disincentives.

“The writing is pretty much on the wall that we’ll be going to all day, every day,” Furton said. “In the past, we received full funding for the half-day program and kindergarten supported programs for other grade levels. I think the majority of our parents will be pleased with the direction we’re taking.”

Committee member Shelley Peets, who took over as principal of Jeffers Elementary School in January, said her former school district (Oakridge in Muskegon) also is headed toward full-time kindergarten.

“Based on the state funding, I think everyone is looking at it,” Peets said. “I think it’s going to be very good for our kids. Right now, we’re trying to fit the kindergarten curriculum into a half day, and our teachers feels rushed and hurried. This will give teachers and students more time to tackle the curriculum.”

Peets said because of state expectations and testing, the kindergarten curriculum is rigorous. Naps are a thing of years past.

“These are 21st-century expectations for our kids,” Peets said. “Now kindergarten teachers will have the full day. There’s so much research out right now how purposeful play is helpful and beneficial to their development. Because of state standards, play has been eliminated from the (half) day. With the change, we’ll have purposeful play in the schedule.”

Peets said schedules and details will be provided to parents at the Feb. 28-29 forums.

“It may be a little difficult for kids the first month, but they will adjust to it very well and it will become routine for them,” Peets said of the full-day schedule. “Kindergarten is going to look very different than when we were in kindergarten, as well it should, because the world is so different.”

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