The South-Western City School District's all-day, everyday kindergarten program is in its second year. Initial indications are the district has achieved the expected benefits of expanding the time students spend in kindergarten.

Establishing an all-day, everyday kindergarten program was a longtime dream for the South-Western City School District.

The initial indications are the district has achieved the expected benefits of expanding the time students spend in kindergarten, according to educators.

"It's very early in the process and we'll need a few years of data to back up the positive impact we're seeing," said Brian Bowser, the district's director of elementary education. "Time will tell, but we know that with this year's first-grade class, we had fewer students who needed reading or math intervention.

"And with fewer students in need of intervention, our first-grade teachers are able to give more time and attention to those students who still need some help."

This school year is the second in which kindergarten students spend every day in the classroom. Previously, South-Western kindergartners attended class every other day.

"The importance of early childhood education is becoming more and more clear through research and our work with young children," Superintendent Bill Wise said. "After the first year of all-day kindergarten, we've seen our students leave their kindergarten classrooms reading and writing at more advanced levels than ever before."

Spending a full 180 days in class rather than just 90 days provides a learning environment that allows more students to flourish, Bowser said.

"There's just more time for the teacher to work with students," he said.

Students also are able to more quickly develop social skills that will help them as they proceed to first grade, Bowser said.

"You can never start too early to build the foundation that will lead to later success in school," he said.

Video • Monterey Elementary School kindergarten teacher Julie Ely leads her students through an interactive writing activity.

To augment the kindergarten program, for the third year, South-Western officials are offering support for kindergartners and their parents through the K-Parent Connect program.

"It's a program that is as much and perhaps more about the parents than it is the students," said Melvina Torbert, South-Western's coordinator of state and federal programs.

The Title I-funded program provides components for both parents and their children, she said.

"For a lot of parents with kindergartners, it's their first experience having a child in public education," Torbert said.

"Often they are uncertain about how they can best support and help their child. A lot of parents don't know what they should do to encourage a child who comes home excited about something they've learned at school."

The K-Parent Connect program begins with a three-week session in early June for parents and students entering kindergarten in the fall.

Twice-a-month sessions are held during the school year. This year's sessions are on Thursdays twice each month February through May.

"There's a parent component with sessions on the topics that reflect the issues about which they have the most interest," Torbert said.

In past years, the topics have included literacy and math curriculum, how parents can meet their children's social and emotion needs and what parents can do at home to help students succeed at school.

While parents are involved in their session, their children are participating in activities led by kindergarten teachers, "building upon what they are learning and working on in their regular class," Torbert said.

A range of parents and students participate in the program, she said.

"It may be a family who is new to the district, or a child who needs some additional reinforcement about the things they are learning in school," Torbert said. "It may be a parent who is concerned and wants to make sure they are doing the right thing at home to support their child."

If space is available, a teacher may recommend that a student and parent attend the school- year sessions, she said.

"Once you sign up for the program, we do ask that you and your child commit to attending each session," Torbert said.

This year, 70 parents have signed up for the school-year sessions, she said.

More information about the K-Parent Connect program is available at www.swcsd.us.

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