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Apollo-Ridge School District moves toward all-day-only kindergarten

Nearly half of the Apollo-Ridge School District’s kindergarten students attend school for a full day.

The school board is considering whether all of its kindergarten students should attend a full-day program, possibly beginning as soon as fall 2011.

At two community meetings scheduled for Monday, parents and residents can hear why administrators think a full-day kindergarten program would be good for children, and tell administrators what they think about it.

Research into the benefits of full-day kindergarten and the district’s first-hand experience are driving the consideration of the change, said Matthew Curci, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment.

But Curci said administrators are stopping short of advocating it.

“We’ve seen enough research that we need to strongly look at it. We do believe it would be a benefit to our students or we wouldn’t be checking into it so strongly,” he said. “We’ve been able to see the progress students have made exposed to a full-day program. We want to look at how that can benefit all of our students.”

Statewide, 68 percent of kindergarten students were in full-day programs as of the 2009-10 school year, according to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, citing data school districts reported to the state Department of Education.

Apollo-Ridge has offered what it calls an “extended-day kindergarten” for six years, Curci said. Students whose testing show they need more work on developing skills are offered the full-day option, which parents can accept or reject.

The district has about 100 students in kindergarten, with 48 of them in the full-day program. Children who are age 5 by Sept. 1 can enter kindergarten for that coming school year.

Because more children are involved in preschool programs, kindergarten is no longer the entry point for formal full-day education outside the home, according to a presentation Curci made to the school board. Students who are used to a full-day preschool or day care program may have their schedule disrupted by a half-day program.

Students who take part in the existing extended-day program “often are observed to have greater readiness for first-grade skills than those who were half-day only,” Curci said.

Curci said research has found that learning in reading and math is increased in a full-day program, with those benefits extending into first and second grades.

“If we want to prepare our students as best as possible, we need some more time with them,” Curci said.

A full-day program would allow time for speciality classes such as art, computers, music, and physical education, and more opportunities for remediation and enrichment.

If the district goes to a full-day kindergarten, it may have to hire one more kindergarten teacher, for a total of six, to maintain low class sizes. More supplies such as tables, chairs, books and research materials may be needed.

The district would save between $35,000 and $45,000 by eliminating the midday bus run to take morning kindergarten students home and pick up the afternoon session students.

Curci said he does not expect the school board to make a decision any earlier than January.

“We want to do it as early as possible and as efficiently as possible,” he said. “We also want to be sure we’re doing the best thing.”

The district asks for those attending the sessions Monday to call and register in advance. For security purposes, a valid driver’s license is required to attend.

Those unable to attend can have their opinions considered by filling out a survey on the district’s website at apolloridge.pa.schoolwebpages.com .

Additional Information:

Coming up

Who: Apollo-Ridge School District

What: Meetings to discuss full-day kindergarten plans

When: 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday

Where: Apollo-Ridge Elementary School, Kiski Township

RSVP: Call the elementary school office at 724-478-6000, ext. 5000

Additional Information:

Full-day vs. half-day kindergarten

Percentages of kindergarten students enrolled in full-day or part-day kindergarten:

• Statewide: 68 percent full-day; 32 percent part-day

• Allegheny County: 70 percent full-day; 30 percent part-day

• Armstrong County: 42 percent full-day; 58 percent part-day

• Butler County: 17 percent full-day; 83 percent part-day

• Westmoreland County: 67 percent full-day; 33 percent part-day

Source: Pennsylvania School Boards Association, 2009-10 school year data


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