Licking County News

Southwest Licking

Jennell: New third-grade mandate will take root in kindergarten

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Changes to the kindergarten schedule should be considered, particularly with the state's new Third-Grade Reading Guarantee looming, according to Southwest Licking Superintendent Robert Jennell.

During its Oct. 18 board meeting, the school board made no formal changes to the existing kindergarten schedule, but Jennell said it's time to get the ball rolling. The Third-Grade Reading Guarantee will hold back third-grade students not reading up to grade level.

"We have (kindergarten) students who are, unfortunately, on the bus as long as they're in the classroom," he told the board. "On Wednesdays when we have two-hour late starts, they're on the bus longer than they're in the classroom."

Jennell wants the board, administration and the community to begin exploring options to allow kindergarten students to be in contact with teachers for longer periods of time than the two-and-a-half hours per day, or less, they are now.

He said he realizes that the district's existing facilities cannot accommodate all-day, every-day kindergarten classes.

One option, Jennell said, is to alternate the days kindergartners attend school.

"They'll be with the teachers more like five hours, five and a half," he said. "It would mean a restructuring of that."

Jennell said it's an idea that needs to be discussed with teachers.

He said that if longer class periods on alternating days appears feasible, he's in favor of inviting community members to round-table discussions and learn what sorts of obstacles or benefits they may see with such a plan.

"I really believe that if you can get a good start with your kindergarten, your first, second and third grades are going to be much better off," Jennell said.

With the state's Third Grade Reading Guarantee coming -- "whether we like it or not," Jennell said -- Jennell believes kindergarten students and their teachers would benefit if the children could spend more time in one sitting together.

"Instead of two or two-and-a-half hours, five hours," he said.

Jennell said it would offer teachers a better opportunity to observe kindergartners' work.

"I think it's going to go a long way toward helping them," he said. "I truly believe we need to spend more time with our kindergarten kids. There are a lot of things we can do."

Jennell told the school board he would look into the pros and cons of alternating days for kindergarten students.

"I'll work with the administration in trying to get the best plan for us," he said.

After the Oct. 18 meeting, Jennell emphasized that alternating kindergarten days may or may not be in Southwest Licking's best interest, but he at least wants to explore the option.

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