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AUSTIN EDITION - col District explores all-day kindergarten

By Candace Raskin

Building a strong foundation in reading and mathematics during the primary grades is a key focus of Austin public schools' administrators, teachers, students and parents this school year.

One major goal of the Austin district for the 2004-2005 school year is to increase districtwide student academic achievement in reading and mathematics.

A major initiative we are studying is the possible implementation of all-day kindergarten for the 2005-2006 school year.

A task force of preschool through grade 12 teachers, administrators and community members has been meeting this fall to study whether implementing all-day kindergarten is feasible for the Austin district.

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The state of Minnesota only funds a half-day kindergarten program, so to move this initiative forward, the task force assessed whether there was a need for all-day kindergarten, the benefit to students, the cost to the district and whether we have the space to implement all-day kindergarten.

The following summarizes their work.

Need and benefit to students

Provides additional support and exposure to meet curricular expectations of the district and state.

Allows children to acquire important competencies earlier in their school careers.

Better prepares students for grade one.

Gives children diverse experiences that are integrated across various curricula areas.

Allows teachers more opportunities to better meet individual needs and accommodate for individual differences.

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Provides more time for hands-on discovery, time for experimenting and making mistakes, time for reading the whole story, and time for deeper, richer, more developmentally appropriate learning.

Cost

All-day kindergarten is not funded by the state of Minnesota. The Austin district will need to look closely for methods to fund this initiative.

Space

The all-day kindergarten task force has recommended four options based on facilities that would allow the district to implement all-day kindergarten. These options were presented to the school board during an October work session and will be the topic of community meetings this month.

The consensus from the all-day kindergarten task force was that we need to move forward in planning for all-day kindergarten for the 2005-2006 school year.

The Austin district now would like to hear from parents and community members concerning their thoughts on the need, cost and space issues surrounding the implementation of an all-day kindergarten program. Meetings have been scheduled to give parents and interested committee members opportunities to learn more about the all-day kindergarten options and present their ideas, support or concerns.

The meetings will be:

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Nov. 9, Banfield Media Center, 6:30 p.m.

Nov. 10, Sumner Auditorium, 6:30 p.m.

Nov. 11, Neveln Auditorium, 6:30 p.m.

Nov. 15 (specifically for Hispanic parents and community members), Neveln Auditorium, 10 a.m.

Nov. 16, Southgate Media Center, 6:30 p.m.

The same information will be presented at each meeting.

This is an exciting opportunity for students and the Austin community. I hope to see many interested parents and community members at these informational meetings. It is by working together and exploring options as a community that the best solution for all-day kindergarten will emerge.

Dr. Candace Raskin is the superintendent of the Austin school district.

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