MARQUETTE - As parents prepare their kids for that memorable first day of school, those with kindergartners may be especially anxious leaving their little ones at the classroom door for the first time.
And now, they'll have to leave them in that classroom for longer than in previous years.
Several area school districts are moving forward this year with full-day kindergarten, as new state legislation only provides a full foundation allowance for kindergarten students who attend a full day of school.
Kindergarten teacher Pamela Spady lectures her charges at Sandy Knoll Elementary School in Marquette. Some public schools in the area are preparing an all day, every day kindergarten program. (Journal file photo)
Prior to the new law, districts could collect a full foundation allowance for kindergartners who attended a half-day of school.
One of the districts making the change is Marquette Area Public Schools, which is looking at not only an increase in the number of full-time students as a result, but also an increase in the number of kindergartners in the district for the 2012-2013 school year.
What parents will likely be most worried about as they wave goodbye to their kids is how their sons and daughters will fare with a full day of school as kindergartners.
Ashley Nicholas, a kindergarten teacher at MAPS' Superior Hills Elementary School, said the extra time in school for kindergartners is important in today's world of stringent education standards.
"It's very important. By the time they leave kindergarten, they're reading, they're writing stories, basic adding. They're doing things now that, typically, you probably would have done in first grade," Nicholas said. "You can really focus on these skills and have them be ready for the next grade."
Nicholas said with a half-day of school, the kindergarten curriculum was mainly focused on literacy and mathematics. Now, she said, the extra time allows the students to learn about a multitude of other things, such as science, social studies and social skills, all of which help provide a foundation for students as they make their way through their elementary years.
Kindergartners will also now have the time to learn about and participate in physical and health education, an area of study often overlooked, as rigorous educational standards leave little room for playtime in elementary school.
The new full day will also provide some much-needed continuity in the lives of the young children who attend kindergarten, Nicholas said, as they will be in the same building with the same teacher all day, rather than being shuttled back and forth from school to daycare to home.
"I think it's a benefit," Nicholas said. "A lot of them, on their days off, are going to daycare or a preschool or some other things. They're not sure where they're going. Now, they're going to know that everyday they're going to go to the same place and see the same people."
Bryan DeAugustine, superintendent for NICE Community Schools, said the transition will be a little different for students in his district, as kindergartners were already going to school all day, but were only attending school every other day.
He said the adjustment for students and parents in his district will come from having a full week of all-day class.
"They're used to full school days. The challenge will be helping the little ones in going all day, every day," DeAugustine said. "The best thing is, the kids coming don't know any different. They're going to school. It will be a transition from daycare or taking care of them in the home ... just making that transition from some sort of schooling to the full-blown all day, every day.
"It's going to be beneficial," DeAugustine added. "Most of our kids, when they come to school, they're ready to tackle that kind of information and are ready to learn ... We'll help any of the kids who might struggle, but for the most part, our kids are up for the challenge."
And though the adjustment may be difficult at first, as many parents can recall their own feelings on their first day of school years ago, DeAugustine and Nicholas said the full-day will not only help prepare the kindergartners academically in their school career, but it will also set them up with a schedule they are used to going into first grade.
"Going from part-time kindergarten, and next year, they're going to all day first grade, now they're just going to be going to a full day. It will make it easier for them going on," Nicholas said.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.