Anyone who spends time around kindergarten-age children knows they can be a handful.
According to a presentation during Tuesday’s school board meeting, the staff at Highland Park Early Primary School are having particular difficulty with a certain group of kindergartners that they hope to resolve over the next few months.
Highland Park Principal Maureen Odegard spoke for her teachers, telling the board of trustees that too many incoming kindergartners are too young.
“They’re not ready for the rigors of what we’re trying to do until February or March, ” Odegard said. “They’re like incoming kindergartners at that point. ”
As the school has seen more students whose birthdays are close to the cutoff date being enrolled, they have had more difficulty with those students, from tantrums to sleeping in class.
Odegard said that today’s kindergarten classes and curriculum is already more advanced than it used to be, now containing much of what used to be a first-grade education that some students just aren’t ready for at four or five years old.
One of the reasons they end up in school too early, according to Odegard, is a rule in the Headstart program, requiring students who finish to enter private pre-school or day care, or start kindergarten, the only affordable option for most, regardless of whether the child is actually ready.
Superintendent Andy Carlson said that 49 percent of Havre High School’s dropouts started as these students, showing that the repercussions of starting too early follow these students throughout their educational careers.
Odegard spoke of advice that she and the whole district has received from education consultant Steven Edwards over the past few years, that schools need to think from graduation backward, “12-K” thinking.
Looking to aid future success, and to make life easier for kindergarten teachers and classmates, Odegard unveiled a plan that she and the teachers have been working on, to add a pre-K class, to allow these younger students a place to continue to learn and take a year to grow and mature enough to be ready for the challenges of a modern kindergarten class.
The class would take on about 20 students who would be watched by a paraprofessional, a teacher and parent volunteers.
The plan is based on similar programs that Havre teachers looked at in Great Falls and Belt.
Tuesday’s presentation was merely informational. In the next few meetings, the board will begin to look at the plan and how or if to implement it.