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Published: Wednesday, 12/27/2006

All-day kindergarten starts soon

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Administrators at Woodmore Local Schools are packing up and moving their offices to create room for more students at the district's elementary school.

The extra space will allow for the start of an all-day, every-day kindergarten program beginning in February, said Joe Wank, Woodmore Elementary School principal.

As it stands now, Mr. Wank said the district has two morning kindergarten classes followed by two afternoon kindergarten classes. Children attend kindergarten every day, but only stay for either a morning class or an afternoon one. The four classes are taught by two elementary school teachers.

But district officials want to experiment with an all-day kindergarten program from February until the end of the 2006-07 school year, Mr. Wank said. If it works well, an all-day program will be established for the 2007-08 school year.

Here's the way the trial period will work: Students enrolled in the morning classes would finish up their lesson for the day in one room, and then would go to another room with a different teacher to continue learning. Children enrolled in the afternoon program would follow a similar schedule.

This way, Mr. Wank said, the all-day program will not interfere with the children whose parents choose to keep their children in school for half of the school day.

"It's like an extended version this year, and our goal is to take it from there into the all-day program," Mr. Wank said.

Officials have wanted to lengthen the district's kindergarten program for more than a year, having determined that the lack of such a program is one of the district's weaknesses. The strategic plan adopted by the school board in July calls for an all-day kindergarten program to be established by 2008.

For the proposed plan starting in February, the district reshuffled some schedules to allow two existing elementary school teachers to work with the kindergartners staying in school all day, and hired an aide to float between classes throughout the school and help out where needed.

"As far as teachers, we just tried to work it out within the numbers that we already had," Mr. Wank said.

A survey that recently went out to parents of kindergartners showed that about 70 percent supported the all-day program. Mr. Wank said he's now working on nailing down the exact number of parents who want to take advantage of the program that will help the students get a leg up on their academics.

"It will help get the kids more prepared for first grade, and it will give us a taste of what an all-day program will look like," he said.

To make room for the youngsters, administration staff members have been packing up their materials and moving little by little to their new home about a half-mile down the street from the elementary school. The administration's new address is 115 Water St. in Woodville, Treasurer Anne Arnold said.

Mrs. Arnold said she expected they'd be finished moving and all set up this week.

The move will free up room for both kindergartners and special education classes. Mrs. Arnold said numerous children in special education classes are forced to go elsewhere for services, even though they live in the district.

"The elementary is so filled up right now that we're just running out of room, and we need to make room to get our kids back in the district," she said.



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