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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.

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Gas vs. instruction: what’s the better investment? April 14, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Funding.
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Many districts put buses on the road at mid-day to drop off and pick up students for half-day kindergarten programs.

Often, one geographical section of an attendance area is slated for morning programs, and the other section for afternoon programs. Buses will leave the school at mid-day to drop off morning kindergarteners and then pick up afternoon students, which essentially puts some buses back on the road an extra time.

In some districts that have “early release” days, in which school lets out early on a specific day (i.e. every Wednesday), the afternoon programs are shorter than two hours. Some only last an hour and ten minutes. That’s an awful lot of gas for a short period of instruction.

dollar signs An interesting angle to consider is how much the mid-day routes cost the district, especially with the rising cost of gas, as compared to what that dollar equivalent could provide in supplies and salaries.

Budget line items would differ for these expenditures, so it’s not an easy either/or equation, but from a broader perspective one might wonder if gasoline is the best investment of our education dollars?