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When a “half day” isn’t a half April 19, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in School Districts.
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If you are a parent of a school-aged child, you are probably familiar with “early dismissal” or “late arrival” days. This is typically one day during the week that’s shorter than the others, i.e. Mondays or Wednesdays, in which teachers can plan and work on career development.

In some schools, the kindergarten programs shoftens significantly, such as an hour and ten minutes for afternoon students in the Lake Washington School District on Wednesdays. The shortened program hardly seems like enough time to wipe noses and get the little ones settled in before it’s time to turn around and go home. Either this is a brand-new approach to math, or the program isn’t truly half a day in some cases, since the full-day students attend for 5ish hours on the shorter day in some schools.

If the kids ride the bus, an hour and ten minutes seems like a high ratio of traveling and transition to actual instructional time. What’s interesting is that some school districts don’t shorten the kindergarten schedules as much for the early release days, offering in some cases more than 2 hours.

Another ramification in some districts is that afternoon classes are shorter than morning classes or vice versa on the career development days. For example, the half-day program at the Lake Washington School District is more than 1.5 hours longer for morning students than for afternoon students at the same school. Shouldn’t a pubic school provide equal instructional time to all students? Other districts, however, better distribute the shortened day across both morning and afternoon programs.

It also appears that some districts don’t even offer kindergarten on early release days, or even alternate between am and pm students every other week, although this blog author is still trying to confirm this detail. For districts that offer no half-day kindergarten on some early release days, how are parents to find alternative care? Although some agencies and private daycares offer after-school care for all-day programs, including adjustments for early release days, the options are few and far between (and sometimes non-existent) for half-day kindergarten programs.

Some schools determine which children attend morning vs. afternoon by bus routes. Whether a child is destined for morning or afternoon programs therefore often depends on where the child lives. Furthermore, your school also may not inform you until late (June, July, and so on) where the line will be drawn, which may throw some parents in a tizzy trying to find arrangements for care.

Districts appear to have many different approaches to adjusting the schedules for half-day kindergarten on the career development days. The only constant appears to be the inconsistency, often creating headaches and immense stress, especially if both parents work. In this blog author’s opinion, the inconsistency is yet another ramification of Washington state’s less-than-ideal approach to kindergarten.

This blog author is not dinging the importance of career development, as every professional should have time to build their knowledge base. If you are a kindergarten parent-to-be, however, you should look closely at your school’s schedule, and prepare for all possiblilities. Even if you request a full-day slot, you could wind up with a half-day slot anyway, if your school doesn’t have enough full-day slots and you’re not lucky at the lottery. Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Here are just a few examples of school schedules, so you can see how the hours differ for afternoon kindergarten on the early release days:

 http://www.lwsd.org/Parents/school-hours/Pages/default.aspx

http://www.newcastle.issaquah.wednet.edu/

http://www.issaquah.wednet.edu/schools/bell.asp

http://www.sno.wednet.edu/other/newelemFAQ.html#Kindy%20Times

 http://www.spokaneschools.org/ParentResources/07-08_SCHOOLS_BELLSCHEDULE.pdf

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