Hilliard Crossing Elementary School will become the sixth of Hilliard City Schools' 14 elementary schools to provide full-day kindergarten for all its students at the start of the next school year Aug. 21.

Herb Higginbotham, director of elementary education for the district, said all-day kindergarten has "real benefits," including better academic performance of students.

For example, students at J.W. Reason Elementary School, which has provided full-day kindergarten since 2015, performed better on standardized tests administered in the third grade than their peers who have had a half-day experience, Higginbotham said.

Though precise data is not available, he said, analysis generally shows the all-day kindergartners have made higher gains in math.

"While we can't make a direct connection, we believe adding all-day kindergarten sets a great foundation for the future of our students," Higginbotham said.

The five elementary schools that offer full-day kindergarten are Avery, Britton, Horizon, J.W. Reason and Norwich.

"Our plan is to continue adding all-day kindergarten to more schools each year," Higginbotham said.

Student needs, enrollment and facilities are among the factors in determining which schools will be the next to offer full-day kindergarten, Higginbotham said.

How soon, which schools and how many schools would be added each year is difficult to predict because of staffing, transportation, facilities, enrollment and other variables, he said.

"We hope we can add at least two each year," Higginbotham said, but that decision would be determined each year moving forward.

Elementary schools that continue to provide half-day kindergarten will have morning and afternoon sessions, he said. The number of scheduled morning and afternoon sessions has varied at each building and will continue to vary based on the number of kindergartners, he said.

The switch to full-day kindergarten does not increase the cost to the district, said Stacie Raterman, director of communications for the district.

"There is no staffing increase or facility changes at the schools we've added (full-day kindergarten, but) we have shuffled staffing," Raterman said. "In 2016, we made a promise to voters to add all-day kindergarten to at least one new building a year. We are continuing to monitor growth and facility needs as we find ways to add all-day kindergarten throughout the district."

In 2016, district voters approved a $50 million bond levy, which helped fund the construction of the new Memorial Middle School on Walker Road, and a 4.5-mill operating levy.

Meanwhile, the district will continue to provide its Kindergarten Literacy Intervention Program, or KLIP, for students identified as needing individual attention at all 14 elementary schools, Higginbotham said.

Prior to the district transitioning schools to all-day kindergarten, 12 to 13 students at each elementary school each year attended the equivalent of all-day kindergarten as part of the KLIP program, he said.

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