Elizabeth Doney Havre Daily News email@example.com
Legislation has made full time kindergarten possible and Havre Public Schools has spent the summer getting the curriculum and classrooms ready for the school year. “It’s taken a lot of planning to get ready for it,” Superintendent Dennis Parman said. “The easy part is getting the books. Computer and supplies we need. The difficult part was the scheduling, curriculum and hiring of four new teachers. With the Legislature funding the full time kindergarten statewide, there was a high demand on the teacher market for teachers that were ready, willing and able to teach full-time kindergarten. We were lucky to get all our positions filled for our teachers.” New kindergarten teachers Jenna Kittson, Sheila Neuwerth, Lynette Stortz and Trever VanCampen will join returning kindergarten teachers Blance Anderson, Lisa Passon, Kim Tommerup and Mary Jo Wells for the 2007-2008 school year. In the last legislative session, special funding was provided for start up costs for full-time kindergarten in addition to regular school-year funding. The start up costs will only be available this year. HPS received approximately $145,000 in start up money based on last year’s enrollment of 163 students, Parman said. “Normally, what happens in schools is that our enrollment is (based) on last year’s students, Parman said. “This allowed us to increase our budgets in a way that implemented full-time kindergarten. The reason the legislators would even do that is there have been many research studies and legislative studies that show that, not only are those children ready to go to school full time, but it pays off in the long run.” There are parents who say they do not think their children are ready to go to kindergarten full time and the legislators listened to them, because they also offered a part time program parents could choose instead, Parman said. “Full time is not the same as all day. It is the shortest instructional day of a student at the kindergarten level. They don’t go to school as long as regular students, but they will go more than alternating days or half days.” Last year, the kindergarten students were in a half-day program with some students going on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and other Students going on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons. This year, all kindergarten students have a five-hour-and-55-minute day with two recesses and a lunch period. The start times and dismissal times are slightly different at HP-South and HP-North for the students because of busing. There are six parents in the district who have opted to plan for the half day kindergarten, so the school district has made plans for that, Parman said. Three of the kindergarten classes will be held at Highland Park South (an ongoing elementary location) and one will be at Highland Park North (the current location of the Boys and Girls Club of the Hi-Line and previously Devlin School). Two kindergarten classes and two first grade classes will be taught at Highland Park North School). There will be six kindergarten classes in Highland Park South. “We did that so that in the years to come, the kindergarten students will be able to stay in that school. That way, they won’t have to do a lot of moving around until they go to Lincoln-McKinley,” Parman said. “Right now we have 163 kids enrolled for kindergarten. We do know that s i x h ave e l e c t e d fo r p a r t t ime kindergarten. That’s a pretty big class i f a l l t h o s e k i d s s h ow u p , o u r (kindergarten) classrooms will be full, which is great.” The kindergarten students were being taught two reading lessons a day because of educational requirements. The result: Last year in Kindergarten, HPS started with a 23 percent at proficient level and ended the year with 69 percent of kids proficient. “The real remarkable part (is that it) was on a part-time program,” Parman said. “Now we have more time for other areas like math, science, social studies. We’ll be able to spend more time on those subjects than we have in the past. We won’t need to spend most of the day reading anymore.” “It will also help on the re-teaching,” Parman said. “Before, the kids would go home on Thursdays and return on Monday. Four days is a long time for kids and the teachers would end up re-teaching the children the same curriculum because they would forget the last lesson.” Classroom space to accommodate the new kinderg a r t e n program was accomplished over the summer. “We needed to get four rooms ready to teach classes in again,” Parman said. “We put in new countertops, new sinks and drinking fountains, new flooring in some of the rooms, and repaired flooring in some of the rooms. We had to equip four classes with equipment and we built some storage for the Boys and Girls Club because we are sharing the classrooms with them and they were using them for storage.” Another change for Highland Park elementary is the elimination of the prefirst program, a class for students that were not quite ready for first grade coming out of a half time kindergarten class. “We’re believing that full time kindergarten will eliminate the need for pre-first,” Parman said. “You can pick any grade level and probably identify kids who will not be ready to go onto the next. But we are predicting that f u l l time kindergarten will eliminate the kind of need we have had in the past for pre-first grade classes.” Now that students are in a full time program, teachers will stretch out that time across two more days and the students will have more time in an expanded single reading session every day. Previously, the math curriculum at Highland Park consisted of counting, writing, recognition, probability, money, time, addition and subtraction. According to the teachers, each unit area they have covered will now be expanded with more hands-on activities added into the curriculum. Other subjects that will be taught to the kindergarten students are handwriting, science, social studies, physical education, computers and social skills. The positive effect associated with fullday programs persists in the majority of research findings even taking into account differences due to child, family and other classroom characteristics, Parman said. The overall representation of gain in scores is approximately 32 percent in reading and 22 percent in mathematics. For more information about full time kindergarten call 265-5554.