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All-day kindergarten program’s early reviews positive

Patti Wilson instructs Trevor Tart on Monday in reading during South Kitsap School District’s first all-day kindergarten program at Olalla Elementary School.  - Chris Chancellor/Staff Photo
Patti Wilson instructs Trevor Tart on Monday in reading during South Kitsap School District’s first all-day kindergarten program at Olalla Elementary School.
— image credit: Chris Chancellor/Staff Photo

Time.

It always is a challenge for elementary school teachers to find it when they seemingly have to cover a kaleidoscope of subjects.

That’s one reason South Kitsap School District Deputy Superintendent Kurt Wagner is excited about the all-day kindergarten program at Olalla Elementary School.

“Just because you have the kids twice as long doesn’t mean you’re giving them twice as much material,” he said. “You can go more in-depth.”

Wagner cited writing as an example. He said all-day kindergartners are provided with a journal in September and are able to review their progress throughout the year.

“As they continue the writing from day one throughout the rest of the year, they begin to develop confidence as a writer,” Wagner said. “Reading is a receptive literacy skill. Writing is expressive — you’re communicating from the inside out.”

Patti Wilson, who teaches the class, said she delves into core subjects in greater detail. For example, Wilson said she previously used to have 30 minutes to teach math. Now, she said, she can meet in groups to teach the subject and spend more time with individuals who struggle with concepts.

Gabe Emley, whose daughter, Madeline, is in the all-day kindergarten program, said he initially was concerned it may be too much for a child her age, “but she seems to be doing fine with it.”

While school only started a little more than two months ago, Emley said he feels his daughter is farther along than his three sons were at the same age in several areas.

This is the first year SKSD has offered an all-day kindergarten program.

The tuition fee is $3,000 for the school year or $1,500 for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Wagner said SKSD must charge for the program because the state only funds kindergarten teachers at 50 percent.

He said in May that the district needed to enroll approximately 14 students who pay the full tuition rate and another six at half-rate to make the program financially viable.

Wagner said last month 23 students are in the all-day kindergarten class, and it should not lose much, if any, money.

He said Olalla was selected to host the program because of its space. Wagner said Olalla had about 500 students a decade ago, but now has 302, which makes it the least populated school in the district.

“We were pretty sure we lost some kids to all-day programs in the Peninsula School District,” Wagner said.

One significant element toward the program being launched was the ability to maintain a half-day kindergarten class at Olalla. Wagner said district officials were against busing students to other schools if the enrollment numbers at Olalla were too low. But when that was not an issue and projected enrollment numbers for the all-day class were sufficient, the district moved forward.

Wagner said he is watching to see if interest increases enough that SKSD might consider adding a second all-day kindergarten class next year.

The district’s online program, which began during the 2007-08 school year, has seen its enrollment increase consistently.

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