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Making the adjustment

By Staff | Sep 25, 2009

Reading, math, music, lunch, physical ed, life skills, library and technology time adds up to quite a busy week for kindgarteners at Ely Elementary.

Yet despite that full plate of learning and activities during a full week, educators have said the first-year students are adjusting well.

“It’s early in the year, but I believe they are adjusting really well (to the five- day schedule),” said Gail Rham, Ely kindergarten teacher.

Fellow kindergarten teacher Jennifer Bartsch agrees, adding her students have remained attentive and haven’t showed signs of being tired by week’s end.

This is the first year the school district has set up full-day, full-week kindergarten. Just three years ago the program was every other day, and after careful consideration and input from parents and teachers, the school board two years ago approved expanding the program to four days, with a fifth day for those students identified as Title One eligible and needing additional instruction.

Jason Gullickson, Ely Elementary principal, agrees with Rham and Bartsch the move from four days to five days has been smooth, and hasn’t received any calls or concerns from parents about children unable to keep pace.

If there has been any bumps in the road so far, it’s been the string of hot weather during this month, which has made some students a bit restless in the classroom by mid afternoon.

At first glance adding one more day of class would appear to test the physical and mental capacities of young children, but actually stretching class time from four to five days had its advantages.

“Before we were trying to cram five days of curriculum into four,” Bartsch said. “With more time, we can take a slower pace, make sure we include more fun activities.”

And so far that has kept the students excited about school and focused on learning.

Rham, who is in her second stint as a kindergarten teacher, recalls a different emphasis on the program many years ago when she first taught the level. It was more about introducing students to the structure of class, and while there were learning activities, the curriculum was not as diverse or demanding.

Today, more is expected of kindergarten students and reading and math make up part of the learning focus. In addition, students also get introduced to music and technology, including using computers.

And the students also take MAP (Measurement of Academic Progress) testing.

The ability for the students to move around the building to participate in physical education, music and technology classes and go to the library is a way to keep them attentive, Gullickson said.

There was some apprehension on the part of board members and parents about expanding the district’s kindergarten program. Some were concerned students were simply not physically or mentally capable of being in a classroom five days a week for an entire school year. And there was also questions about those who lived in the country and needed to ride the bus, making for even longer days.

Others questioned whether it was necessary for students to be introduced to so much curriculum at such an early age.

While kindergarten is not mandatory, many parents choose to place their child in the program, and according to local educators, the statistics have shown more class time better prepares children for the added curriculum placed on them in the grade school these days.

Despite being ages five and six, the students have showed they can adapt to more classroom time but the school is aware that some students from time to time may need a break.

And both Bartsch and Rham are sensitive to the needs of their students.

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