Before District 69 introduced full-day kindergarten in 2007, Dedee Goldsmith resisted the idea. “I understand the benefits of a full-day program and I see that it probably meets the needs of most children and their families better than half-day. I also realize that it helps make our district more competitive. I just like spending time with my kids.”
Her older daughter, Limor, attended the half-day program two years ago and Goldsmith wanted to continue the same schedule when Maya, her younger child, entered kindergarten this year.
But now that Maya is in Jennifer Robinson’s class at Madison School, Goldsmith sees her daughter flourishing in the full-day program.
“I have to admit, I miss having her here during the day,” Goldsmith said. “But Maya comes home every day excited about what she did and what she learned. She loves it. She wants to tell me all about it. After only a couple of months, she was at a place academically and developmentally that her older sister didn’t reach until the end of kindergarten or even the beginning of first grade.”
Robinson sees similar things happening in all her students. “The amount of independence they have already is far different from last year. In the half-day program, students had basically two hours in school. When you figure in the time spent in specials and transitioning, there wasn’t a whole lot of time left for classwork.” This year, kindergarten students have much more time to work on reading, writing and “real math.” As a result, they are making academic progress more rapidly.
“Last year I had 24 children in the morning and 24 in the afternoon—48 different kids, families, report cards and assessments. It’s hard to give them all the attention they deserve. Now with 20 students for the full day, it’s wonderful. All the teachers have more time to deal with the kids we have. That means more opportunities to spot academic issues or fine motor issues than last year. It also enables us to build a better bond and a stronger relationship with each student.”
Early on, eight kindergarten classrooms filled to capacity with students from diverse backgrounds for the entire school day brought certain logistical challenges—lunch, recess, trips to the bathroom. But the new students adapted quickly and learned the school routines.
“Even with all that logistic impact, full-day kindergarten is absolutely the right way to go,” said Madison principal Lisa Halverson. “It gives us an opportunity to make an earlier impact—academically, socially, emotionally—and that’s our job. Next year our first-grade teachers will see a real difference.”
Lincoln Junior High