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Full-day program begins

September 04, 2000

Full-day program begins



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


The first week of a pilot full-day kindergarten program at Marshall Street School got off with no problems, according to school staff.

About 60 students from Winter Street, Bester and Salem Avenue elementary schools were chosen to participate but only a portion started on the first day of school. The Board of Education chose to stagger the enrollment, with all participating students expected to attend by Tuesday.

"It's going wonderfully," Valerie Kaufmann, head kindergarten teacher at Marshall Street said.

Kaufmann said the students arrive at school at 8:15 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m. A typical school day provides breakfast, lunch and instruction in a variety of subjects, including language arts, reading, writing, listening, speaking, physical education, music, art, health and science.

"We do the whole gamut of what you would expect to see in a school," Kaufmann said.

The students must also have 45 minutes set aside for rest time, as required by state law. Once the school year is over, the kids will return to their home school for first grade.

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She said the full-day kindergarten program is more beneficial to children because it expands their learning time, whereas half-day kindergarten teachers must squeeze as much instruction as they can into two-and-a-half hours, Kaufmann said.

"Trying to fit everything in over those two-and-a-half hours was very difficult," she said.

Students who attended prekindergarten last year at Marshall Street were given first preference for the pilot program. The program is geared toward children from school districts with generally low socioeconomic backgrounds. They are students school officials think would benefit from the additional instruction. Marshall Street was chosen because it had enough room to hold students and some of the children had already attended prekindergarten there.

The children are broken up into three full-day classes, each class with its own teacher and instructional assistant.

"These are kids that would really benefit from an extended day," said David Unruh, principal at Salem Avenue.

However, for the 2001-2002 school year, the Board of Education hopes full-day kindergarten will be in place for all students, Kaufmann said.

Last year, Washington County was one of three school systems in the state that didn't offer full-day or extended kindergarten in at least one school, according to the state Department of Education.

The pilot program this year is being funded with a three-year Goals 2000 grant, which provided $200,000 for the first year. The funding is expected to decrease in the second and third years and local funding could be needed to continue the program, according to the Board of Education.

"We really feel that this full-day program gives children the benefits of starting out right at school," Kaufmann said. "So far so good."

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