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Path is set for all-day kindergarten in Farmington

Slow down to go fast appears to be the unofficial motto of the Farmington School District’s soon-to-be-expanded all-day kindergarten offerings.

The Farmington School Board approved parameters for the program, which will grow starting in the fall of 2014 when the state of Minnesota offers funding to make all-day classes free to all who want them.

According to Laura Pierce, the district’s Innovation Zone director, those parameters do not include using the extra time to rush through more and more subjects. They focus instead on covering the usual material in more depth. On taking the time to build a foundation both academically and socially so students are better prepared when they move on to first grade.

“We know that they need more time for fine motor skills, behavior skills, social strategies,” Pierce told board members last week. “The teachers sometimes feel there’s a lot of pressure on them. They want to get all children to where they need to be by the end of their kindergarten year.”

Last year about 20 percent of the district’s kindergarteners were enrolled in the for-a-fee Kinder Journey program. Another 17 percent were enrolled in Kindergarten Complement, a service that offers full-day programming on a limited basis, with parents choosing which days they wanted their students stay for the full day.

There are some other benefits to full-day programming, Pierce said. Half-day kindergarten teachers might currently have 48 students or more between their morning and afternoon sessions. With all-day kindergarten, that number will shrink to around 24.

“(Teachers) know this is going to really allow them to customize and build deeper relationships,” Pierce said.

Eliminating or reducing the mid-day busing associated with half-day kindergarten will save the district about $150,000, Pierce said.

All-day kindergarten is not for everyone, though, and Pierce said families will not be required to keep their kindergarteners in school all day.

Customized options will allow parents to pull their student out after part of the day. Pierce said last week that seven families had contacted her about that option.

The district held five focus sessions in September to provide information to interested parents. Pierce said 114 families signed in at those sessions.

Board members were happy with the parameters set out last week.

“It really builds on what we’ve been talking about with helping (students) build the skills at each level,” board member Brian Treakle said.

Registration for all-day kindergarten in Farmington will take place in January.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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