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Coupeville plans all-day kindergarten

The Coupeville School Board decided Monday night to institute an all-day kindergarten schedule in the fall for all kindergarteners. They reasoned it would be good for the kindergarteners and good for the budget.

“This is one way we can save money and meet the parents needs in the district,” Glenda Merwine, Coupeville Elementary School principal said.

For the district, the new schedule would mean an estimated savings of $10,865 in transportation costs, as it would mean half as many bus trips.

Merwine has experience with all-day kindergarten, as it was the only schedule at Allen Elementary where she was the principal for four years, and she started the program at Oak Harbor Elementary when she was principal there. Coupeville has had one all-day kindergarten class for the last two years, and Merwine felt it was a good trial run for full implemenation.

Sending five-year-olds to school all day may seem daunting, but Merwine cited research which she said shows overwhelming evidence that the schedule is actually good for children. The idea was presented to parents at a recent kindergarten orientation, and Merwine said there were no complaints about the proposal at that meeting, or in subsequent parent input. Fifty-eight parents pre-registered their children for kindergarten at the orientation, the highest number ever, Merwine said.

“Full-day alternating (kindergarten) does not hurt children,” Merwine told the board and parents Monday. “It does buy us time in reaching as many children as possible.”

Under the plan approved by the board, kindergarten students would go to school from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. on Monday and Thursday, or Tuesday and Friday, with each group alternating full days on Wednesdays.

The all-day schedule would allow for four classes of kindergarteners instead of the current three. Merwine hoped this would mean fewer students per class. The students would be able to take part in the hot lunch program, with free or reduced lunches available.

An all-day program also allows teachers to offer extended lesson plans, with more subjects offered in one day.

Parent Karen Gervais spoke against the proposal at the school board meeting. While she did not produce research to the contrary, she felt the methodology used in the research was flawed, and that the schedule was not the best for children so young.

“I am surprised and worried at the new schedule,” she said, noting that it was preferable for students to attend class daily. “Kids can’t learn if they’re not here.”

Superintendent Bill Myhr said anecdotally the all-day alternate-day schedule worked well in the Elma School District, which was his last posting.

Board member Mitchell Howard conceded common sense says an all-day every day schedule would be the best option, but the district doesn’t have the funds to support that.

Merwine said she hoped the school could work with community agencies to provide activities for children on non-school days.

For parents who may question whether their child is ready for a full day of school at age five, Merwine said the school always gives a two- week trial period.

“We are very very cautious, and take good anecdotal notes on every child,” she said. She also pointed out that kindergarten is not mandatory in Washington state, so parents have to option of waiting another year, or exploring other options. The school will not be offering a half-day alternative.

Parents with questions about the program may contact Merwine at Coupeville Elementary School, 678-4551.

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