It’s an all-day affair

KINGSTON — Pat Pearson’s full-day kindergarten class at Gordon Elementary knows how to listen and pay attention all day long.

Actually, the 21 budding pupils have it down to a science.

In less than 45 minutes, the little learners listened to a story on natural disasters, learned about the calendar, sang, danced, practiced numbers and letters, cut out shapes, colored and quietly threw away their trash, pushed in their chairs, put on their coats and lined up for morning recess.

And they did it all without confusion or questions, a noticeable perk to attending class all day long.

“They can get through lunch and the afternoon knowing what’s expected of them,” Pearson said. “They’re just a half-step ahead of everybody else.”

Pearson must keep the little learners busy, busy, busy and going non-stop to ensure they’re engaged and attentive throughout the whole day, whereas half-day kindergartners only attend school two hours and 40 minutes.

The young pupils continue to prove they’re capable of all-day attention spans and full-day kindergarten sessions remain a success for the North Kitsap School District.

So much so that full-day kindergarten is now offered at all of the district’s elementary schools, as this year Poulsbo and Hilder Pearson Elementary schools joined the ranks.

MaryLou Murphy, NKSD executive director of teaching and learning services, said there’s always been demand for the additional full-day kindergarten classes, but the space wasn’t available. However, when sixth grade was moved to Poulsbo Middle School, it freed up room for kindergarten classes. NKSD hosts eight full-day kindergarten classes.

The state funds half-day kindergarten, so the parents pick up the tab for half the day. Parents pay more than $3,000 for their children to participate, but they consider the price tag well worth it.

Murphy said most NKSD parents work full time. She knows parents who put their children in NKSD kindergarten and then put them in day care or private kindergarten for the remainder of the day. But a space in the private programs isn’t always available and day care costs are more than full-day kindergarten tuition.

“It’s a service that benefits the parents in our community and it benefits the children,” Murphy said.

The benefit to students becomes especially important even at the kindergarten level, as academic standards continue to rise.

In addition to learning how to stand in line, push in chairs, raise hands, ask questions and work as a group, kindergartners must learn shapes and colors, master letters and numerals, and begin to read and write.

“Standards have become so much more intense,” Pearson said. “Half-day kindergarten can teach to the standards and that’s it. In full-day we can go beyond the standards.”

The benefits don’t stop at academics. Similar to half-day students, most full-day kindergartners will forget the basics over the summer, but they don’t forget how to manage an entire school day. They enter first grade knowing how to go to lunch, recess and the specialist classes of music, physical education and library.

They become school savvy, a reason for NKSD first-grade teachers to celebrate.

Averil Story is a first-grade teacher at Wolfle Elementary. She said the full-day kindergartners are more mature. They say “hi” to her in the halls. They know how to line up. She looks forward to teaching them in first grade.

“It makes a world of difference,” Story said. “I don’t have to totally retrain them and they’re more experienced with things I’m going to expect of them in first grade.”

Some schools in the state with higher poverty rates receive funding for full-day kindergarten. But there’s a growing interest in across-the-board state funding for full-day kindergarten classes.

“We would love to have it for everybody tuition free,” Murphy said. “It should be a high priority for state funding.”

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