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School district weighing full-day kindergarten program

| Saturday, March 2, 2002

The Parent-Teacher Association president at White Oak Elementary School says half-day kindergarten was fine for both her daughters, but believes some children might benefit from the full-day program being considered by the school district.

"They seemed to pick up everything the teachers had to teach them," said Mary Jo Kline, who has a daughter in fourth grade and one in kindergarten.

Still, she thinks all-day kindergarten "benefits some students if they need that little extra bit of help. It seems to be the growing trend, and studies have shown that it is beneficial for students."

At this week's business meeting, the McKeesport Area School Board authorized the administration to continue studying the feasibility of starting all-day kindergarten next year.

The district has half-day kindergarten, either morning or afternoon, in all three elementary schools. School director Marc Gergely said the district has been considering all-day sessions for about a year.

"I think it's a great idea," he said. "At the age of 5, we could start to teach them education skills and social skills and make sure they have a good hot meal and also have some physical activity, and we could develop a more positive curriculum that will help our kids get a better education."

Director of curriculum and instruction Shirley Golofski said research has shown a renewed interest in academic preparation for success in school.

"It is fairly new for students to attend all-day kindergarten, so there isn't a lot of data on it, but a district in Ohio has done this for about five years, and students who attended all day have maintained an academic advantage," Golofski said.

From McKeesport Area's study of Fox Chapel Area's program, "it appears that parents have supported the full-day kindergarten," she said. "They find that the students are being better prepared to succeed in school."

Gergely said the district might institute a pilot program in one school to evaluate before expanding to the other two, and Golofski said there should be no space problems in any building.

To those who claim all-day kindergarten is too tiring for children, Golofski replies that many preschool programs are longer than many kindergarten programs because parents are working, and the children are used to that kind of routine.

Gergely had no idea how many teachers or aides would need to be hired.

Golofski said the study will include staff visits to all-day programs and parent surveys. When parents register their children for kindergarten they will be asked why they do or do not support an all-day program.

"I'm totally in support of it," she said. "It will give students more time to achieve the readiness skills they need for reading. There's more to kindergarten these day than play."

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