By Ross Markman
In an effort to trim transition time and add valuable learning minutes, Havre Public Schools will introduce a new format for its kindergarten program in September full-day school.
Kindergartners at Highland Park Early Primary School are currently placed in one of eight sections, four of which attend morning classes and four of which attend afternoon. Morning hours are 8:20 to 10:50, while afternoon are 12:15 to 2:45. Students attend school every day.
Next year, the eight classes will be reduced to two, and kindergartners will go to school every other day.
One section will attend full days on Mondays and Wednesdays and the morning hours on Friday. The other is slated for Tuesdays and Thursdays and Friday afternoons.
"I think this will help the kids to have a clearer understanding of what it will be like to be in school a full day," Havre schools superintendent Kirk Miller said. "It also makes it more convenient for parents to schedule, especially those who live out of town."
Miller introduced the format as part of his education enhancement package, which was approved by the school board in April. Other enhancements include reducing the size of first- and third-grade classes, and eliminating the fourth-grade swimming program during the school day to allow more time for academics.
"This is definitely an enhancement. We'll be able to increase the instructional time we have with kids," Highland Park principal Lisa Stroh said. "I am very optimistic about this. It just really makes sense."
Highland Park has 148 kindergartners enrolled this year. Stroh anticipates a similar amount in September.
Switching to full days, Stroh said, will reduce transition time, which includes teachers assisting kids with their coats and boots and preparing them to go home. Kindergarten teacher Mary Nault said transition time can sometimes be as much as 10 minutes twice a day.
"It depends if it's winter," Nault said. "It takes a lot longer then."
Before making the change, Stroh and the four kindergarten teachers at Highland Park Suzy Capdeville, Aubrie Kallenberger, June Welch and Nault extensively researched the idea. The staff made a trip to Conrad to observe a full-day kindergarten and was also visited by a teacher from Cut Bank whose school also uses the full-day format.
"They were both so positive. They were really a proponent of it here. It's good for kids, and I always think, What is the best thing for kids?'" Stroh said.
"I can't speak for all the parents, but they will be able to take their kids to school or day care, and they'll stay there all day," she added. "I think it will provide a much more stable day for students."
With the new schedule, academics will be emphasized during the morning hours, while the afternoon will be designated for activity-based learning.
"It's important for parents to know that we take the scheduling of the kids' day very seriously," Stroh said.
The school district, she added, will provide bussing to and from school on full days, and will bring students to their home or day care on Fridays.
"I don't think this will be a hard transition for the kids," Stroh said. "From the other teachers we've talked to in other districts, they say the kids adjust."
Kallenberger agreed and said she looks forward to the change.
"It'll be nice to have them here all day," she said. "I've had some parents who say they wished we had it this year."