Parents are pleased with new schedule at school open house
WILLMAR -- Kindergarten teachers began greeting their students Tuesday during open houses at three elementary schools in Willmar. The new all-day, everyday kindergarten schedule was a topic for some of the adults, but the children seemed more int...
WILLMAR -- Kindergarten teachers began greeting their students Tuesday during open houses at three elementary schools in Willmar.
The new all-day, everyday kindergarten schedule was a topic for some of the adults, but the children seemed more interested in the assortment of dolls, toys and puzzles in each classroom. The district will have 16 sections of full-time kindergarten classes when school starts this week. One section was added in the past week, because enrollment was higher than expected. The district's goal is to keep each kindergarten class at 20 students or less. The School Board voted on Aug. 8 to expand the district's half-day kindergarten to an all-day, everyday schedule.
At Jefferson Elementary, three kindergarten rooms have been developed. New teacher Erika Johnson is still getting her room ready as she prepares for school.
She taught all-day, everyday kindergarten in Big Lake last year but would have gone back to a half-day schedule there this year.
"It would have been hard to go back to half-day," she said. She is excited for the opportunity to stay with the schedule in Willmar, and so are her new colleagues, she said.
"The teachers who have been here for a while, it's just kinda bubbling out of them," she said.
Returning teachers Barbara Downey and Susan Olson said they were looking forward to the new schedule, too.
"I taught full-day, everyday in California, and it was wonderful, just wonderful," Olson said.
One parent told her that she thought her older child would have benefited from the all-day schedule, too, Downey said.
That's what the parents of Tosha and Kerstin Davis said. Tosha, 10, attended all-day, every-other-day kindergarten, and scheduling could be difficult, said Kim Davis.
"As a working mom, I'm happy," she said.
Dad Phil Davis watched Kerstin, 5, explore the room with her sister. "She's ecstatic too," he said.
"I think they should benefit a lot from having it the whole day," Phil Davis said.
Marissa Rende was too shy to say much about it, but her parents said the 5-year-old is excited about starting school. They had to hide her backpack, because she couldn't leave her school supplies alone.
Marissa's parents, April Workman and Daniel Rende, are all for the new kindergarten schedule. "I think it might be a better learning experience," Rende said.
"I think it's great," said Workman. "There's so much more information they need to learn." Her only real concern, she said, is putting her oldest child on the school bus.
Mike and Sara Carlson stopped by with their son Brady, who will be in Olson's class. Mike Carlson is a member of the School Board and voted for the change. Sara Carlson is a member of the Early Childhood Coalition in Willmar.
The group has been talking to business leaders and "anybody who would listen, saying this is the right thing," she said. "But I didn't think about it as a parent."
After the board made its decision, she said, she thought, "That is so awesome for Brady."
Kris Pollock was another pleased parent. She said she had been disappointed before, because her daughter, Allyson, would have gone from the full-day Cardinal Kids preschool program to a half-day kindergarten program.
Beckie Simenson, principal at Lincoln and Jefferson elementary schools, said she thought kindergarten enrollment went up in part because of the changed schedule, but it could be more.
"The community is changing, and I think we're seeing more people move into the community," she said.
The school was able to hire another new teacher on short notice from "a dynamic group of teachers" who applied when kindergarten openings were advertised earlier this month, she said.
"I think things are going pretty smoothly," Simenson said. She said other staff members who had to move to different classrooms are to be commended for their cooperation in the three-week effort to prepare for the new kindergarten schedule.