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Over the last several weeks, the elementary school principals and kindergarten teachers have been hard at work preparing for the implementation of all-day kindergarten at Gales Ferry, Ledyard Center and Gallup Hill schools. The work being done is a wonderful result of the successful budget referendum which included funding for all-day kindergarten classes.
The first step in preparing for the program was to arrange for the staffing to accommodate the extra kindergarten classes; the district needed to hire three additional teachers. The majority of that funding came from the savings to the transportation account; since the children will remain in school for the full day, no mid-day bus runs are needed. The savings in busing nearly equaled the cost of the additional teachers.
The next task the school had to complete to prepare for the extra classes was to equip the additional kindergarten classrooms with furniture, equipment and supplies. Most of the student desks were available in the district's storage areas, and funds to purchase materials for math and language arts were identified in next year's budget for school supplies.
The current kindergarten teachers are simply delighted with the prospect of beginning the all-day program. The current half-day program simply does not provide enough time for literacy and math instruction. The new program will allow for uninterrupted learning in both areas with sufficient time to pursue both science and social studies.
The special area teachers are also pleased with the all-day program because the children will now have 45-minute classes in music, art, computers, media center, and physical education. Those classes will typically be broken into approximately three 15-minute activities for the young children. As the program is currently structured, the classes in each special area last for only 25 minutes. That is not enough time to accomplish the learning goals for children ages four and five.
The other benefit of the all-day program noted by early childhood educators is the opportunity the extra time will provide to build a positive learning community. The extra time will allow for longer discussions between the children and with the teacher regarding literature and other academic subjects. Those discussions will be extremely helpful in developing the critically important oral language skills of the children.
Ledyard's adoption of the all-day kindergarten program is a huge step forward for our schools and will play a major role in teaching the new, more rigorous curriculum recently adopted by the state. As we approach the end of another productive school year, the elementary schools, especially the kindergarten grades, are filled with a genuine excitement for the promising programs we will begin in the fall.
MICHAEL GRANER IS THE SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS IN LEDYARD.