Hayden researching all-day kindergarten

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Extending kindergarten from three hours to a full class day is an idea many parents would like to see happen, said Hayden Valley Elementary School Principal Mike Luppes.

Three weeks ago, the Hayden School District sent surveys to parents of preschool-aged children asking if they would support a parent-funded all-day kindergarten program.

"In general, the response has been positive," Luppes said.

Hayden School District Superintendent Scott Mader said he would initiate a discussion about the possibility of implementing all-day kindergarten in Hayden at the School Board meeting at 6 p.m. today.

Schools receive state funding for half-day kindergarten programs only. Hayden offers two sessions, from 8:15 to 11:05 a.m. and from 12:15 to 3:05 p.m.

"We're truly looking at this from the academic aspect," Luppes said. "Two hours and 50 minutes is not a lot of time in the classroom. For social and academic development, there's just not time."

Hayden's lone kindergarten teacher, Christine Epp, agreed.

"A half day is such a short time to fit in everything the kids need," Epp said. "All-day kindergarten would allow time for the other things, like enrichment activities."

Half days barely allow time to teach what the state mandates, she added.

"It's tough figuring out what is developmentally appropriate for their age," Epp said. "They need a lot of hands-on, experiential learning, but the state expects more reading and writing. An all-day program would give us more time to do that. Sometimes, we have 10 minutes for this, 10 minutes for that. I feel the pressure, and I think sometimes the kids do, too."

The South Routt School District has offered full-day kindergarten since its program began in the late 1960s. While the state funds one half of the day, the district pays for the other.

"Our school district has committed itself to paying the other half," said Mary Shanklin, a 32-year kindergarten teacher at Yampa Elementary School. "The administration felt like it was such a beneficial program, they were willing to fund it."

In the past few years, though, parents have questioned the need for an all-day program at such an early age, Shanklin said.

"Halfway through the year, parents see the benefits and see it's really a great thing," Shanklin said. She and Peggy Barnes teach the district's two kindergarten classes.

Right now, the Hayden School District is studying possible ways to implement all-day kindergarten in Hayden. Officials hope feedback from the surveys will provide them with direction on whether having all-day kindergarten is wanted or would be financially supported, Luppes said.

The district is seeking support for a parent-funded program that might cost from $25 to $40 per week, Luppes said.

But most parents pay for kindergarten in other ways, by taking time to drop off or pick up their children in the middle of the day.

"That's the hardship for a lot of parents -- finding the rides and finding day care," Luppes said.

Hayden day-care provider Carol Munden agreed it would be a good idea, even though she realizes it might take some business from her.

"They need more day care in Hayden," Munden said. "Just last week, I had three calls asking if I could take care of babies, and I couldn't do it. I had no room. If there was a kindergarten program, I could take more younger children."

"If it takes the place of a day-care situation, we have little doubt it would be welcomed with open arms," Luppes said, acknowledging that some day-care centers charge the same price daily as what the school district likely would charge weekly. "We've been looking at this for the past two to three years, but it's been a discussion everywhere in Colorado forever. From the district's standpoint, finances have been the only thing holding us back."

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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