All-day kindergarten extends to all schools this fall


A pilot program last year at Garfield Elementary is now being implemented districtwide, as all-day kindergarten will now be a reality at the three schools in the district with a kindergarten program.

The program, which extends instruction from half a day to a full day for kindergarten students who decide to participate, was approved earlier this year by the Miles City Unified Board of Trustees to open to Garfield, Jefferson and Highland Park schools. The program is voluntary, and allows parents who feel their kids would benefit from extra support and more resources to get the help they need.

“We started the idea for full-day kindergarten with one school, about 20 kids, just to see what the reaction and results would be,” Superintendent Keith Campbell said back in February. “It was like a four-week transition for the kids whose parents let them participate. Eventually, more and more kids came into the full-day program, and by about Christmas break, all but one of those 20 kids was participating in full-day kindergarten.”

The program proved popular, and Garfield Principal Laurie Huffman said it will only continue to be an asset to the students participating, as well as the teachers entrusted with the students. After three weeks of regular half-day classes for the students to get acclimated, a joint decision will be made by parents and teachers as to which students will attend a full day.

“After the 3-week time period, the teacher will meet with the parents, and they will decide if the child is ready to go to the afternoon session,” Huffman said. “If the parents do not want the child to go, they have the option to say thank you, but no. Conversely, if the teacher feels the child still is not ready to handle a full day, the teacher will make that recommendation.”

The initial pilot project at Garfield last year was met with an overwhelming show of support from parents and teachers alike. By the end of the school year, every kindergarten student at Garfield was participating in the all-day classes.

“The parents were very positive about it, and we felt the kids academically really thrived in the program,” Huffman said. “They had more time to grasp the concepts we were trying to teach. We had kids able to do things academically at the end of the year that they haven’t been able to do in previous years, and that is because of the extra time.”

Because not all 5-year-olds are the same as far as what they’re able to adjust to, a teacher may recommend that a student wait a bit to begin the all-day program, though his or her status is continually updated throughout the school year.

“Maybe a student is young for their age, or still gets tired in the afternoon,” Huffman explained. “They need to be at a place where they can rest. In those cases, the teacher will be talking to the parents on a weekly basis about slowly easing the kids into it. It’s a full spectrum with these kids, some rip-roaring ready to go, and some kids just need that extra down time.”

The benefits of the program, according to Huffman, are clearly evident.

“The biggest benefit I see is that what the teacher was trying to teach in four hours, she now has six hours to teach it,” she said. “More hands-on activities are available because of that added time. 

“The attention span for a kindergartner is very short, so the teachers are always switching things up to keep them focused. And those extra two hours give the teachers a chance to go back and revisit the topics they’ve already covered in the morning. There will be no new topics introduced in the afternoon; rather, the topics taught earlier will be reinforced.”