Dist. 16 design team envisions kindergarten options

UPDATED: This story has been changed to reflect new kindergarten parent information and enrollment night schedules. Schedules have been altered to avoid a conflict with Anoka County Caucus Night, Feb. 4, also slated to occur in school facilities.

Spring Lake Park District 16 is busy planning for the implementation of all-day, everyday kindergarten this fall.

The district has offered all-day kindergarten as a fee-based program for more than 10 years, but with legislative changes, all-day kindergarten will be offered at no cost in school districts across Minnesota.

Kindergartners line up to go inside on the first day of school at Northpoint Elementary School this year. Next year, kindergartners can attend all-day, everyday kindergarten with no fees. File photo by Olivia Koester

Kindergartners line up to go inside on the first day of school at Northpoint Elementary School this year. Next year, kindergartners can attend all-day, everyday kindergarten with no fees. File photo by Olivia Koester

Research shows that attending all-day kindergarten puts students at an advantage.

“All-day kindergarten students show better social, emotional and behavioral development, reduced retention remediation rates and fewer referrals for special education because we’re intervening early if we identify kids that are at risk,” said Northpoint Elementary School Principal Mike Callahan, who is leading the district’s kindergarten design team.

He is joined by the district’s other two elementary school principals, as well as several teachers and district administrators.

Currently, between its three elementary schools, District 16 oversees 500 kindergarten students in 22 sections – 13 full-day and nine half-day.

Although enrollment will not be firmed up until March or April, the district estimates it will retain the same amount of kindergartners in its 2014-2015 class. More will take advantage of full-day classes.

One of the design team’s major considerations is how to continue offering a half-day option for parents who may prefer it.

“Districts are required to accommodate families that wish to develop a part-time schedule,” Callahan said.

Beginning next year, no half-day kindergarten classes will be available at Woodcrest Spanish Immersion Elementary School because the language will come more easily to students who are immersed in it all day long, Callahan said.

Half-day options will be available at Northpoint and Park Terrace elementary schools, but the team isn’t sure what form half-day kindergarten will take yet.

The design team is considering two possibilities, neither of which offers mid-day transportation.

To illustrate the possibilities for the school board in a presentation Jan. 14, Callahan used Northpoint Elementary School as an example. Hypothetically, next year 10 students want to attend half-day kindergarten and classes can accommodate 22 students.

Blended classes would place five of the half-day students in one class and five in another.

“We currently have a strong half-day program, so we may take that … and replicate that from an instructional standpoint in the morning so we’re hitting on those core content areas,” Callahan said. “And then in the afternoon, when five of those students leave, that teacher will continue on with those 17 students and give them a double dose, or go deeper with the learning in the second half of the day.”

Another option puts all 10 half-day students in one classroom so that when they leave before lunch, 12 students remain.

Performing early assessments and identifying at-risk students, the district could place those at-risk students in a class with all of the half-day students so that when they leave, the at-risk students will get extra one-on-one attention with a smaller class size.

Parents who choose to enroll their children in half-day classes may want to transition their children to all-day kindergarten before the year concludes.

Principals will work with parents who have that desire, Callahan said.

District leaders hope parents will recognize all-day kindergarten’s benefits.

“While we do need to provide a half-day option for kindergarten, we do want to encourage as many families as possible to take advantage of that full-day option,” Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg said.

It’s already time to register for the 2014-2015 school year.

Kindergarten-specific parent information and enrollment nights are scheduled for the first week of February at each respective school.

• Woodcrest Elementary – Monday, Feb. 3, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. or 6:45-7:45 p.m.

• Northpoint Elementary – Wednesday, Feb. 5, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. or 6:45-7:45 p.m.

• Park Terrace Elementary – Wednesday, Feb. 5, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. or 6:45-7:45 p.m.

A districtwide information and enrollment open house will be held Wednesday, Feb. 5, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the District Service Center.

Families should plan to register before the end of February.

“We do expect spots to fill quickly, and we may have to do a random drawing for Spanish Immersion, as well as those families that are interested in open enrolling to our school district,” Callahan said.

Olivia Koester is at olivia.koester@ecm-inc.com

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