Our View: The benefits of all-day kindergarten

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We applaud the Hayden School District's decision to add all-day kindergarten. We hope the Steamboat Springs School District can follow suit.

Hayden has received funding from the state's Colorado Preschool Kindergarten Pro--gram to expand kindergarten classes from half to full days. Hayden had considered the move for years but could not afford to do so without the state's assistance.

Suzanne Schlicht, general manager

Bryna Larsen, publisher

Scott Stanford, editor

Brent Boyer, city editor

Tom Ross, reporter

Scott Gordon, community representative

Paul Sachs, community representative

Superintendent Mike Luppes said full-day kindergarten "will give students the start they need for first grade." We could not agree more.

All-day kindergarten also is important for Hayden kindergarten parents, many of whom work in Steamboat Springs. Half-day kindergarten is less than three hours long. Working parents must make arrangements for child care the other half of the day and for transportation from kindergarten to child care. That's hard enough when you work in the town where your child attends kindergarten. Throw in a 25-mile commute, and it's impractical.

Luppes estimated expanding the program will cost the district an additional $65,000. The state is expected to pick up more than half that cost. Parents will have to pay tuition, but the tuition will be considerably less than the cost of child care.

The all-day kindergarten program is a continuation of efforts the Hayden district has undertaken to better meet the needs of the community. Other steps include the expansion of its vocational programs and the shift to a four-day week during the winter months.

Hayden joins the Soroco School District in offering all-day kindergarten. Steamboat Springs should be next.

It should be noted that Steamboat is not eligible for the state funding that Hayden received and that kindergarten affects relatively few students and parents. Only about 6 percent of the district's student population is in kindergarten in any given year. Also, kindergarten is not mandatory in Colorado, and some parents are strong supporters of the half-day program.

But overall, all-day kindergarten offers more pluses than minuses to the Steamboat community. Currently, half-day child care in a licensed center costs between $35 and $43 a day. When care in the summer is factored in, that's more than $10,000 a year -- a significant burden on working families.

The biggest benefit to all-day kindergarten is educational. Students in Steamboat's kindergarten program are in class for 2.5 hours per day. Many also are in a child-care center before and after kindergarten.

Keeping students in one place for most of the day is safer and allows for more consistent instruction. Imagine the progress kindergarten students can make by more than doubling the time they are in the kindergarten classroom; think of how much better prepared such students will be for the first grade.

Steamboat has the equivalent of four full-time kindergarten teachers and four classrooms. Switching to an all-day program likely would double the district's kindergarten costs. But given the benefits to students, parents and the community, it's something that could be well worth the price.

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