Miller-Driscoll principal gives positive full-day kindergarten feedback

Principal Cheryl Jensen-Gerner updated the Board of Education on the status of Miller-Driscoll’s full-day kindergarten program during its March 13 meeting.

Ms. Jensen-Gerner told the board she has been meeting with kindergarten teachers throughout the year to discuss what they like and what they want to change about the full-day program that was implemented in August.

Previously, students attended an extended-day program in which they went two full days and three half-days.

Schedule

Ms. Jensen-Gerner said the schedule consists of academics in the morning and play in the afternoon.

“The children are attentive and engaged, which were some of the initial concerns,” said Ms. Jensen-Gerner, “but we’ve found that the schedule is very accommodating for the children.”

Ms. Jensen-Gerner said having a specific time for reading in the morning and writing in the afternoon provides more consistency and continuity for instruction.

Full-day kindergarten provides more options and flexibility for the teachers and students, said Ms. Jensen-Gerner.

“The Math in Focus program expects that you teach that every day, and we now have the time to do that,” said Ms. Jensen-Gerner. “There’s also time for free and instruction play at the end of the day, which is a perfect time for that. Previously, we didn’t have the time.”

Ms. Jensen-Gerner said she and the kindergarten teachers have found that there’s “a nice, comfortable flow through the day.”

“Children get in and they get going. We don’t have that freneticism in the middle of the day,” said Ms. Jensen-Gerner. “The children know what they’re supposed to do all day and they don’t ask anymore if it’s their long day or short day. They’ve adapted well.”

While assessing the full-day kindergarten activities, Ms. Jensen-Gerner said she noticed the kindergartners appeared content.

“None of the children were lying on the floor sleeping or wanting to go home,” she said.

Ms. Jensen-Gerner said there are currently no kindergartners in the opt-out program that was offered at the beginning of the school year. That program would have been only half-days.

“The children are a community of learners all day, every day. They’re not split into two classes. They’re there all day and they learn how to be a kindergarten class,” said Ms. Jensen-Gerner.

Development

Ms. Jensen-Gerner said the schedule includes independent activities for the children to pursue.

“They have a lot of opportunities and have developed a lot of independence throughout this year,” she said.

Students’ independence is one thing she and the kindergarten teachers have noticed.

“The children are independent learners, which is very interesting and exciting to see,” said Ms. Jensen-Gerner. “In the beginning of the year you wonder, but by this time they know what they’re supposed to do and they sit there and do it. They’re just so much further along than we’ve seen in the past.”

Ms. Jensen-Gerner said the full-day kindergartners are doing very well at every level.

“The kids are well on track,” she said. “They do what we expected them to do at the end of the year.”

Paraprofessionals

Ms. Jensen-Gerner told the board she and the Miller-Driscoll kindergarten teachers have found paraprofessionals to be important assets to the program.

“We’re seeing that the paraprofessionals help with reading, reviewing, struggling readers and activities,” Ms. Jensen-Gerner told the Board of Educaton.

Paraprofessionals don’t teach the children, said Ms. Jensen-Gerner, but they provide assistance in various ways.

“We have found that the paraprofessionals are very valuable,” she said.

Next steps

Ms. Jensen-Gerner said she and the teachers are quite happy with most of the full-day kindergarten schedule.

However, “there are some other things on the curriculum that we’re looking at, too,” she said.

When the kindergartners go on to first grade, Ms. Jensen-Gerner said they will have more stamina.

“When you’ve been in school all day, every day, you have the stamina, and we see that with the children now,” she said.

Ms. Jensen-Gerner said the kindergartners have also built stamina for independent reading.

“Our expectation is that the children sit there and do the reading for a longer period of time,” said Ms. Jensen-Gerner. “That’s one of the things that we teach in first grade, and I think they’ll be able to do that sooner and better.”