Full-day kindergarten gets glowing reviews

 

A pilot program for kindergartners introduced at Garfield Elementary School this fall has received positive feedback from students and parents alike, according to the Miles City Unified School District.

The program, which extends instruction from half a day to a full day for kindergarten students who decide to participate, was given an update from teacher Kristi Regalado to the Unified Board of Trustees Monday. 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. “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.”

Regalado told the board the kids participating are achieving at a much higher level compared to her half-day class last year. Parents with students participating in the program have been overwhelmingly supportive, writing letters in praise of Regalado’s efforts.

“The parents talked about their apprehensions with the idea at first, which is completely understandable,” Campbell said. “They thought the adjustment of going to a full day would be difficult, and for some students it is, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no formula that says ‘At this age, you are this ready.’ But the parents participating all said their kids overcame that right away. They may have been tired the first few days, but they acclimated fast. The parents really feel like it’s beneficial.”

Garfield Elementary Principal Laurie Huffman attributes the early success of the project to students having more time to apply the knowledge they’ve been taught. Morning hours are teaching ones, while the afternoon is now reserved for applying what the students have learned.

“The students actually get to learn how to use what they’ve been taught in the morning, and in a relaxed situation,” Huffman said. “They have creative opportunities to apply what they’ve learned, without having to infringe on the limited time they have in the morning. It keeps the information at the forefront, without having to wait until the next day to apply it.” “Not every student learns the same way, but they are getting to apply this information in four or five different ways, hopefully reaching every learning style,” Huffman said.

Campbell and Huffman both credit Regalado for her dedication to the project, praising her for her willingness to make it a success.

“Kristi sees her students doing things at this point of the school year she would have been excited to see by the end of the year,” Huffman said. “She had examples of student work at the meeting last night, such as using independent writing, with full sentences and capital letters and periods, and almost 100 percent of the students are doing that. That wouldn’t have ever happened in previous years, because students didn’t have the time to apply those concepts right away.”

Both Huffman and Campbell said they would like to see full-time kindergarten throughout the district in the future, should the funding and the interest be there. Huffman said she and Highland Park and Jefferson Elementary Principal Carolyn Hopkins have met with the other kindergarten teachers in the district, who have voiced their enthusiasm for the project.

“Right now, we are in the process of looking at data to see if it would be beneficial to the district,” Huffman said. “I don’t think more time can ever be a disadvantage, and it will be something we present to the board at the very earliest in March. We have kindergarten screening in early April, so we want to have parents know ahead of time that the option is available. Judging by how well it’s going at Garfield, we can’t see any disadvantages to it.”

To illustrate the point, Huffman pointed to a humorous story Regalado shared with the board Monday.

“There were some kids at the beginning who didn’t start off with full days right away, because they weren’t ready, and the parents weren’t ready,” Huffman said. “Kristi told a story about a little boy whose mom didn’t want her son to go all day quite yet. The little boy finally went to Kristi and said, ‘Would you talk to my mom and see if she’ll let me go to school all day?’ Kristi did, and it worked out well for both of them.”

Under staffing, new hires ratified in the Elementary School District include  Melinda Tangen-Substitute teacher, and Dave Wheeler- Kitchen Aide.

Resignations in the Elementary District include Stephanie Birkeland-Special Ed Aide Highland Park, and Carol French-Kindergarten Aide Jefferson.

New hires ratified in the High School District include Chris Reed-Assistant Girls’ Softball Coach, Chelsey Lund-Assistant Girls’ Softball Coach, and Scott Rapson- Assistant CCDHS Tennis Coach.