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Committee recommends all-day K, no Young Fives for SL schools

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

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Because of changes in state funding, the district is following the trend of schools statewide to dump morning and afternoon kindergarten schedules in favor of all-day classes.

The committee and Spring Lake Public Schools leaders will present informational forums to parents and community members at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 28-29, at the Spring Lake Middle School auditorium. A question-and-answer session will follow each of the presentations.

SLPS Director of Curriculum Beverly Hundley told the board Monday night that the committee spent hundreds of hours researching full-time kindergarten and concluded it is in the best interest of Spring Lake students.

“The kindergarten curriculum has changed over the course of many years, but the one thing that didn’t change was the length of the day,” Hundley said of rigorous state teaching requirements.

The new schedule will include three recesses, a literacy block, science/social studies/life skills, a math block, rest and reading, purposeful play — and “specials” such as art, gym and technology.

Hundley said 65 percent of kindergartners across the country attend full-day classes, and research has shown better attendance with no increased levels of fatigue.

The full-day schedule will increase classroom time from 540 hours to at least 1,080 hours, and provide for more educational time and purposeful play.

Kindergartners will attend school from 8:35 a.m. to 3:35 p.m., the same as other elementary grades.

The committee also recommend that the school board discontinue the Young Fives program, provide paraprofessional support in kindergarten classrooms and provide a week-long summer kindergarten camp for children who have not experienced preschool. The committee also encouraged applying for a great state readiness program for children with challenges to learning.

Spring Lake Superintendent Dennis Furton said Monday night that the district would lose about $730,000 by continuing with half-day kindergarten schedules.

The move will require four additional kindergarten teachers and the equivalent of 1.67 “special” teachers. Staffing costs are expected to increase from $759,000 to $1.1 million annually, and additional supplies will cost about $12,000 per classroom.

“This isn’t about money, it’s about educational opportunities,” Furton said. “This is a huge opportunity for our kindergartners. When the Class of 2025 graduates, it’s going to be a whole different world that those kids encounter.”

Furton said he was skeptical about some aspects of full-time kindergarten at first, but the research alleviated his concerns.

Board of Education President Dina Horne said she was impressed with the presentation.

“We really appreciate the hard work the committee has done,” Horne said. “They did their homework for sure.”

The board will formally vote on the change at its March meeting.

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