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Kindergarten students at Donegal Elementary put in full day

| Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009

The school day got a bit longer this year for kindergarten students in the Mt Pleasant Area School District. The district implemented a full-day kindergarten program this year.

After ironing some rough spots, the full-day program is now in full swing and faculty, administration and parents alike have all adapted to the new length and new format.

"It's been good, and we have received a lot of positive feedback," said Donegal and Norvelt elementary Principal Scott Bryer. "We've had good feedback from the teachers and from the parents. We went through our growing pains and worked out the kinks. This has been new for everyone."

Bryer said that although teachers have been moved from different grade levels, everyone involved has adapted well to the new format.

"This is really a new experience for them and they are pleased with the direction of the program," Bryer said.

The full-day kindergarten classes are offered at Donegal, Norvelt and Rumbaugh elementary schools. The seven classes number 153 students.

"These full-day classes allow us to provide a lot more material," Bryer said. "We feel that the full day will better prepare the students for the first and second grades."

Unlike many other districts, the full-day program in Mt. Pleasant is not federally funded. It is being financed by the district.

"Our full-day kindergarten is not funded by federal money but it is done within our own budget," said Lance Bentler, principal of Ramsay and Rumbaugh elementary schools. "But we are still trying to model ours like the state's funded programs. We want to make sure that we are on the same page."

Although it is not required within the program to have state monitoring, the district requested it.

"We have someone from the state who will visit us three times this year," Bentler said. The district received its first visit from a Pennsylvania State Board of Education representative recently. "We received some very positive remarks from her and she was overall satisfied with the program."

The full-day kindergarten is structured to include math, reading, language, arts, science, art, music and gym.

Working in groups, the program also helps students address newer situations such as team building and problem solving.

And the full-day program also addresses and stresses the importance of social interaction.

"We offer each kindergarten student free breakfast," Bentler said. "They have a half hour at the beginning of the day to enjoy their breakfast and a little extra social time. That was not possible when we offered the half-day program and the social aspect is important."

"The students have an extra opportunity to meet and socialize in the morning and the breakfast is served right in their rooms, said district Superintendent Terry Struble. "It is a good time for social interaction and more social time."

"Our goal is to provide a good foundation, a solid start for our students when they enter the first grade," Bryer said. "We have structured it the same as a the other elementary classes and these students enjoy it. They work at their own pace and they have the chance to interact with each other which helps them with social skills. It's been a positive start."

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