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Published: Wednesday, 3/21/2001

Bedford survey to gauge interest in all-day kindergarten

Jennifer Hare and kindergarteners at Douglas Road Elementary discuss vegetables before they prepare soup. Jennifer Hare and kindergarteners at Douglas Road Elementary discuss vegetables before they prepare soup.

TEMPERANCE - Bedford Public Schools will mail out a special survey over the next few weeks to the parents of next year's kindergarten class to see whether interest exists to pilot an all-day kindergarten program this fall.

Bedford assistant superintendent for curriculum Jon White said last week he was putting finishing touches on the survey, which will measure the interest of those whose children will begin their first year at Bedford this fall. The survey also will be sent to the parents of this year's kindergartners to determine interest in participating in an all-day, every day class, instead of the half-day offering.

“If the survey comes back overwhelmingly that nobody wants to do it, then we probably won't,” Mr. White said. “But if the survey comes back that there is some interest in it, we will probably try a pilot program.”

Beginning an all-day kindergarten program was a goal brought to Bedford by former superintendent Bill Hall, and one the district has continued to pursue, Mr. White said. But to this point the district did not have the class space available to explore the option.

That will change next fall, when the district opens its fifth elementary school, on Monroe Road in Lambertville. If the pilot program goes forward, the district will probably only offer the all-day kindergarten to about two dozen children, or one class, at one of the existing elementary schools, Mr. White said.

While some parents might clamor to enroll their child in an all-day program, others may prefer the half-day approach they likely experienced.

“It's a philosophy. Kindergarten is a very developmentally oriented classroom, and the children are so young, that some people think it's very difficult to have them in school longer than a half-day. I suspect that there will be some responses on the survey that say, `No, I want them home with me for that nurturing environment for the other half-day,” ' Mr. White said.

Nearby Whiteford Agricultural is the only other school in Monroe County that has any type of all-day kindergarten. But Whiteford's kindergarten students go to school all day, every other day. If Bedford adopts the pilot program, its kindergartners would attend class the same amount of time that other elementary students do in the district, Mr. White said, adding that there is a significant distinction.

“An all-day kindergarten gives a child the gift of time. In a half-day kindergarten, it's just a jam-packed full day. There's something going on in there all the time,” he said. While an all-day program would likely use the same core curriculum, it would move at a much more relaxed and thorough pace.

“By expanding the same activities to a full-day, you're allowing the child to assimilate those activities more fully. There's more time to develop the child's own personality, and their own learning style. It's less hurried.”

Nationally, early childhood development experts and primary education researchers have advocated all-day kindergarten as a way to enhance student performance later with early academic intervention, said Dr. Dominic Gullo of the National All-Day Kindergarten Network.

Dr. Gullo, a professor of early childhood education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said that historically, kindergarten had been an all-day affair until post-war economic realities intervened.

“Half-day kindergarten started after World War II. With the baby boom and because of the lack of teachers, necessity required that [schools] find a way to use fewer teachers for more students. Before World War II full-day kindergarten was the norm,” Dr. Gullo said.

While the vast majority of academic research points to greater success with a full-day setting, he said some educators and families are reluctant to embrace the idea.

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