GROVE CITY – Grove City school directors are expected to vote this Monday to change the district’s kindergarten programming.

Elementary administrators want to offer all-day classes to all kindergarten students, giving them more opportunities to learn and grow.

“They respond to that,” Tammi Martin, elementary principal, said at Monday night’s school board work session.

There are about 130 students in kindergarten. Roughly half of them attend full-day classes – those who tested below national guidelines. The other students are in half-day classes.

Board members will be voting on offering all-day classes to all kindergarten students starting with the 2020-21 school year. That doesn’t eliminate the half-day option, board members said.

The district has been studying the all-day idea for all kindergarteners since 2010. The teachers need more time with the students, Martin said.

“It’s really about educating the whole child,” she said.

Expectations are now more demanding, but time is limited. The half-day classes last 2 hours and 40 minutes.

It is challenging to teach kids with different levels of educational needs in that amount of time, she said.

Michelle Beck teaches kindergarten math, and the program she uses recommends 80 to 90 minutes of instruction for each lesson. The kindergarten students in the half-day session have about an hour, Beck said.

“The time is just not there,” she said.

The all-day classes allow teachers to “bookend” the days with homeroom time, which in elementary school sets the stage for the entire day, merging social and academic learning, said Andrew Kemper, assistant elementary principal.

If some parents would still want the half-day option, board members would need to consider transportation costs.

If the district switches to full-day classes for all kindergarteners, they could cut out mid-day busing and save about $70,000, Martin said.

The teaching staff would be reorganized regardless. That will be easier next school year, when the Highland Intermediate Center students are moved to Hillview Elementary School.

Martin noted that the half-day kids who would qualify for free or reduced-price meals are not getting fed at school because there’s not enough time.

Board member Ray Abplanalp asked about the kindergarten students who do not attend preschool-type classes. He wondered how long it takes for them to catch up to the other students.

That could take a few years, Martin said.

The students in the all-day classes outperform the half-day students, she said.

This issue is not ready for a vote next week, and more input is needed from the taxpayers and families, board member Carolyn Oppenheimer said.

“We have no idea what they think,” she said.

She said she was incredibly disappointed in the proposal to vote on the matter so soon.

The vote won’t close the door on the half-day option, said board President Dr. Constance Nichols, Though if most parents are in favor of the full-day classes, the board will have to make decisions on things like transportation, she said.

Next week’s vote would give the board the opportunity to explore the issue further, and the issue is not a surprise, Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Finch said.

Oppenheimer suggested that the district send out a survey to parents instead of voting next week.

“I just think it’s disrespectful,” she said.

The board has been discussing the issue for six years; board members are elected to make these kinds of decision, said Roberta Hensel, school director.

Board member Patty Wilson said she’s reached out to the public and found that many people want full-day kindergarten.

Board member Heather Baker said people have asked her about the idea, and they’re informed and talking about it.

The district could move up the kindergarten registration process, giving school officials more time to see where parents said, said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Joshua Weaver.

He added that some people have been shocked to learn that the district doesn’t offer full-day kindergarten classes.

Martin recently attended an elementary PTO meeting where a lot of the families in attendance said they’d be in favor of all-day classes.

And the half-day classes aren’t true “half days,” board member Dr. Michael O’Donovan said. A full day is about 6½ hours, while a half day is 2 hours and 40 minutes.

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