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District Prepares to Answer Parent Questions About All-Day Kindergarten

The full-day program will be standard at all eight Birmingham elementary schools starting in the 2012-13 school year.

All-day kindergarten is coming to  and school administrators are preparing parents of prospective kindergarteners.

All eight elementary schools in the Birmingham district will implement all-day kindergarten in the 2012-13 school year, due to recent changes in state funding as well as mandated curriculum changes.

According to a report presented at the Dec. 13 meeting of the Birmingham Board of Education, intent language in the Michigan School Aid Act states that the state will only fund kindergarten for the portion of the day that a district offers it.

That means half-day programs considered standard at many districts across the state — including Birmingham Public Schools — will only receive half of the total funding from the state. In Birmingham, that comes out to be $3 million less per year.

To adapt to longer days, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Paul DeAngelis said the district will need to increase its staff and purchase additional materials while also finding space in each of the buildings for additional classes. The average size of a kindergarten class now is 15 students.

The total cost of moving to all-day kindergarten is expected to cost the district around $2.5 million.

Birmingham Schools already offers all-day kindergarten through its Extended Day and KinderPlus program. The Extended Day program is five days a week while parents can opt into however many days they wish with the KinderPlus program.

Both programs are very popular, DeAngelis said, noting that 50 percent of parents of incoming kindergartners now choose a full-day program. The elimination of both will result in a loss of revenue from tuition paid to both programs, though DeAngelis said more information about revenue loss will be available as the district continues to study the issue.

However, DeAngelis pointed out that many parents send their children to private schools if only for the all-day kindergarten programs.

"Districts who went to full-day brought in more students," DeAngelis told school board members, citing a county study.

The district has plans to continue offering half-day kindergarten programs for parents who want it, though the size of the program will be based on demand and be offered in a limited number of buildings, Birmingham Schools spokeswoman Marcia Wilkinson said.

'Like a gerbil on a treadmill'

At the school board meeting, several kindergarten teachers, all members of a programming committee working to develop a philosophical belief statement for the new all-day program, discussed the benefits of all-day kindergarten in Birmingham.

The full-day program allows students to work more in small groups, the teachers said, while giving teachers more time to be flexible and address individual students' needs.

"With a half-day, you feel like a gerbil on a treadmill," said Amy Denys, an extended day kindergarten teacher at , who pointed out that much of the country has already shifted to all-day kindergarten programs.

All-day kindergarten, according to the teachers, also allows for more self-directed learning, time to learn and engage as well as time for "purposeful play."

"Which of course builds character and allows children to learn to cooperate with each other," added Nancy Singer, a kindergarten teacher in 's extended day program. 

"With the core curriculum adding things that need to be accomplished in kindergarten, the all-day kindergarten program really allows for the pacing to let that content be developmentally appropriate," Singer said. "And that's, I think, the most important piece — allowing for that time."

The group, guided by Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Stephen Palmer, is looking at curriculum for the all-day program, instruction and professional development for kindergarten teachers.

When it comes to parent concerns, Singer said the biggest concern so far is: What is the programming going to look like?

"There's this concern that we don't turn all our kindergartens, just because they're all day, into mini-first grades," she said. "But in the committee work we've done so far, it's been overwhelmingly evident that's not what we believe."

Parents invited to kindergarten round-ups

A final report on all-day kindergarten will be presented to the Board of Education in February, along with preliminary enrollment numbers and a rough idea on how many parents want half-day and full-day programs. In March, the district will offer parent forums on the subject.

Parents of prospective kindergartners are also invited to attend one of eight kindergarten round-ups at each of the district's elementary schools this month and next. At the round-ups, parents will be prepped on kindergarten enrollment, meet the teachers as well as learn about next year's changes to the kindergarten program.

  • : 7 p.m. Jan. 24
  • : 7 p.m. Jan. 31
  • : 7 p.m. Jan. 24
  • : 7 p.m. Feb. 1
  • : 6:30 p.m. Feb. 1
  • : 6:30 p.m. Jan. 25
  • : 6:30 p.m. Jan. 26
  • : 7 p.m. Jan. 31

In addition, if you're unsure if your child is ready for kindgarten, Birmingham Schools is hosting "Ready Children, Ready Schools" at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Bingham Farms Elementary. Parents are invited for a discussion on kindergarten readiness, giving them the opportunitity to speak with professionals from the Oakland Intermediate School District as well as Birmingham Schools.

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