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Thriving in all-day grade K

4:26 pm November 8th, 2013

Colton Rush (right) and David Jabaay, using blocks in a mathematics lesson at Weyerhaeuser Elementary School, are among students in all-day, free kindergarten the Eatonville School District started this year.  (Jim Bryant/The Dispatch)

Colton Rush (right) and David Jabaay, using blocks in a mathematics lesson at Weyerhaeuser Elementary School, are among students in all-day, free kindergarten the Eatonville School District started this year. (Jim Bryant/The Dispatch)

By Joan Cronk
Contributing writer
The Bethel and Eatonville school districts see the value in all-day kindergarten.
Krista Carlson, spokeswoman for Bethel, said the district has offered all-day kindergarten programs for a while, and “this year we have added the number of schools that are offering the free all-day program. Last year we had five schools and this year we have eight, and of that number, six are state-funded and the other two the district is picking up.”
Since the children are in school twice as long as they would normally be under the State system, teachers have a longer time to work with the students.
“In the half-day program, once the kids get off the bus and get settled, it is almost time to put them on the bus and send them home,” Carlson said. “In a full-day program, you can have the time to get them settled and provide additional instruction that you wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Carlson added that the Bethel district has a levy coming up next February, and if it passes, all-day kindergarten would be offered to all students in the district.
“Our School Board stands behind the whole concept of an all-day program. There is so much more learning time for the kids,” said Carlson.
She added that all-day kindergarten insures that the children are prepared to enter first grade, and an additional bonus is that the kids really enjoy the experience.
“The really cool thing is that the kids are going to school. They are big kids and engage in the process and are involved,” she said.
The Eatonville School District began offering tuition-free, all-day kindergarten for all students beginning with the start of the 2013-14 school year in September, even though the District didn’t qualify for full state funding.
Superintendent Krestin Bahr said, “We are committed to providing all of our students equal access and opportunity.”
Kerri Gray teaches all-day kindergarten at Weyerhaeuser Elementary School in the Eatonville district. This is her 10th year teaching all-day kindergarten, and she sees valuable differences in part-day and all-day.
“You can deliver much more curriculum to the students in a more structured environment, and it allows for a really nice routine for the students,” she said.
Gray said by the end of the school year, her all-day students are definitely ready for first grade.
With 19 students in her class at Weyerhaeuser, Gray has the time to give each one special attention.
“It is really fun to see how much kindergartners grow during the year. They are like little sponges, and they take off. They love to learn and are excited and happy little learners,” she said.
Gray thinks the students of today are ready for all-day kindergarten.
“Many of them have been in pre-school and daycare and they are ready for it,” she said.. “The state has more academic mandates, even for the kindergarteners, and the face of kindergarten has changed tremendously in the years I’ve taught. By funding all-day kindergarten, the state is giving the children a chance to blossom and grow.”

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