All-Day Welcomed

Anthony Gomez, 5, center, and other kindergarten students at Rod

Majority of parents and teachers support all-day kindergarten;
Already implemented in three of eight GUSD elementary schools
Gilroy – In today’s standard-infused kindergartens, naps are passé, graham crackers and milk aren’t a necessity and all-day kindergarten will soon become the norm. Apparently, being tiny and missing mommy aren’t substantial concerns when faced with fitting in a slew of lessons on reading, writing and arithmetic.

“Obviously, the more time you have, the more you can do,” said Claudia Diaz, a Rod Kelley Elementary School kindergarten teacher.

Three of Gilroy Unified School District’s eight elementary schools now have that extra time. Eliot, Las Animas and Rod Kelley have implemented all-day kindergarten. Now the students arrive at school between 8:15 and 8:20am and head home between 2:15 and 2:20pm.

Antonio Del Buono, El Roble, Glen View and Luigi Aprea elementary schools still have half-day kindergarten. Rucker Elementary School has switched to an extended-day kindergarten, with students attending class until 1:30pm.

If the district’s plans pan out, by 2015, half-day kindergarten will no longer exist in Gilroy.

Glen View and Rucker Elementary schools will implement full-day kindergarten between 2006 and 2009, while Luigi Aprea, Antonio Del Buono and El Roble will hop on the wagon between 2009 and 2015.

The three-part phase was instituted to ease the burden on facilities, said Olivia Schaad, GUSD director of curriculum. Currently, schools like Luigi Aprea simply don’t have the room to house kindergarten students for six hours.

The shift to six-hour kindergarten could end up costing the district about $2 million over a 10-year period but that number may fluctuate as enrollment shifts and new buildings are erected, said Schaad. Because educators were only teaching half-days, the school district did not have to hire new teachers, she added.

Before making the move, all district parents were asked to fill out a survey. Of the 747 parents who responded, 74 percent strongly agreed or agreed with implementing all-day kindergarten, 11 percent disagreed and 15 percent weren’t sure, said Schaad.

Melissa Scarcella is definitely among the majority.

As the mother shuffled her energetic 5-year-old twins from their El Roble Elementary School classroom Tuesday afternoon, Scarcella said she would rather not wait for all-day kindergarten.

“It would be nice to implement it now,” she said.

Since Scarcella’s sons, Jonathan and Ryan, both went to preschool, the three-plus hours they spend in kindergarten is no big deal. Tacking on an extra three hours would give teachers more time to cover all the basics and still have time for fun and games, she said.

For Amber Ritz – an El Roble kindergarten teacher whose son attended half-day kindergarten in Morgan Hill – a happy medium in the full-day versus half-day debate would be to ease into the transition.

Since many of her students don’t attend preschool, sometimes just sitting through a half-day is difficult enough. During the summer, Ritz taught an extended day pre-kindergarten class and the extra hour made a huge difference.

But many teachers say they need a six-hour day to complete the state standards and Diaz said with half-day kindergarten, math was often neglected since reading and writing are emphasized so strongly in that grade.

Rita Russo, an educator for 40 years and kindergarten teacher for six, echoed the same sentiments.

“You couldn’t fit everything in,” she said.

Now the Rod Kelley teachers spend the morning covering reading, writing and math and the afternoons are filled with “enrichment” activities such as music, physical education and art.

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