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RBC I This fall, the Rangely and Meeker school districts have transitioned from a traditional half-day kindergarten to a full-day program in which the county’s five-year-old students will begin attending school on the same seven-and-a-half-hour schedule as the older students.
Rangely School District Superintendent Matt Scoggins said that despite the reservations of some parents, the district decided to make the change in order to allow “children and teachers time to explore topics in-depth, reduce the ratio of transition time to class time, provide for greater continuity of day-to-day activities and provide an environment that favors a child-centered, developmentally appropriate approach.”
Scoggins said he is hopeful that the extended day for the youngsters will lead to improved achievement.
“We hope to see greater reading and mathematics achievement gains,” he said. “The extended learning time and the continuity afforded by a full day of instruction have a significant effect on all children and their learning. It is not strictly about more time on math and reading, rather it allows the students time to learn and explore activities in depth.”
Meeker School Superintendent Chris Selle is similarly optimistic about the change and stated that until this year Meeker was one of the few districts that did not offer full-day kindergarten.
“Meeker was one of approximately one dozen school districts in the state (there are 178 school districts, plus the Charter School Institute) that did not offer any type of full-day kindergarten. Full-day kindergarten is a basic service to our students. It is time for the Meeker School District to ensure we are maximizing this learning opportunity for the benefit of our students.”
However, Selle wants the community to know that the change is not without a cost.
“The state does not fully fund kindergarten students,” he said. “So, to provide this basic service, we need to utilize additional general fund dollars. Because our district has very, very strong financial reserves, we are intentionally deficit spending to fund full-day kindergarten, in addition to other basic educational programs in the district.”
Not all parents were on board with the change.
Rangely mom and business owner Beth Wiley attended the school board meetings where the switch was discussed and spoke out to the board with her concerns,which were centered around making sure the program would be developmentally appropriate for such young kids.
“Originally, I was not a fan of the idea of moving to full day kindergarten, but after really delving into the research that was shared in the board packets and looking into it on my own, I believe that a developmentally appropriate full day kindergarten program centered around proven best practices and led by someone trained in Early Childhood Education would benefit our community.
“I attended the board meetings and work sessions where the topic was heavily discussed, and after so much research was passed around there was a general agreement from everyone on the school board that if the decision was made to move to an all-day program, how it was done was would be critical to whether it would help or harm academic success over in the long term.
“After the board approved the change I was extremely disappointed to hear they were already defaulting to the curriculum already in place instead of making the changes they had discussed,” Wiley said. “Then, in June when I asked what the approach to the curriculum would be—thinking about all the discussion in the spring—I found out that there was no specific vision, clear direction or articulated plan about how to put that age-appropriate program in place. It seems to me that there was a significant gap in the vision the board articulated about kindergarten and how it is actually being carried out. I have seen this occur in other areas as well. This really concerns me.”
When asked what options are available to parents like Wiley, who might not be comfortable with the full-day kindergarten program, Scoggins responded, “Rangely School District only offers a full-day kindergarten program. We understand that the transition to a full-day of school may be challenging for youngsters. Children typically adjust to the daily routine within the first few weeks of school. While it is the parent or guardian’s prerogative to pick children up early, these absences will mean that children miss instruction and classroom interaction in the afternoon.”
In Rangely the full-day program presents several unique challenges including lunch time. The program is currently housed at the Early Education Center, where there is no meal service, requiring that students be bussed daily to Parkview Elementary School for lunch and specials events, including physical education and music classes.
Rangely started classes on Aug. 15 while Meeker began classes on Monday.