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Eugene 4J Schools Embrace Full-Day Kindergarten

Karen Richards

This year, for the first time, all Oregon schools have the funding to offer full-day kindergarten. In Eugene's 4J district, teachers and parents have embraced the change.

Students in Rebecca Boyd's kindergarten class at Spring Creek Elementary are starting what will be a six-hour day. They're here for more than twice as long as their peers from last year.

Eugene 4J spokeswoman Kerry Delf says the Oregon legislature voted to fund all-day kindergarten in 2011 and the change went into effect this fall:

Delf: "This is a huge step forward for Oregon, and it's one that comes behind many other states, which have had full day Kindergarten and sometimes pre-Kindergarten classes as part of the public schools."

In preparation for the change, dozens of new teacher were hired and classrooms were outfitted. Delf says 4J had to stretch the budget:

Delf: "What has changed in state funding is that a full amount of per pupil funding is provided for each full time Kindergartener, when it used to be half that. That doesn't, however, provide any additional funding for space or books or classroom furniture, and that's something districts have had to deal with on their own.

Delf says the school board felt the funding was critical. She says solid foundations are important, and a half day couldn't supply the breadth of learning necessary for upper grades. Kindergarten teacher Rebecca Boyd says she’s felt fully supported. Her room has new chairs and new supplies for the added curriculum. She says there are many advantages to full-day kindergarten:

Boyd: "There's the book that was written, All I Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten, it really holds true, there's so much wisdom there. Learning to take turns and cooperate with friends and stand in a line and be together as a community… also that communication piece. The earlier we get our kids communicating with each other the better our society will be."

Boyd has taught for 19 years, including some half day kindergarten classes at River Road Elementary. She says it's refreshing to teach one group of 23 students rather than 50 kids in two classes. Also, Boyd says, working parents are happy not to have to schedule day care, and to have a safe place for their kids to be all day. So far, there have been only minor snags. She says incorporating quiet time is key:

Boyd: "Some of them (are) just now turned five. So they're used to kind of having a little nap. And they're having a difficult time with transitions, right, because there are so many transitions within the school day."

Boyd says overall, things are going very smoothly. The district has had a team working for months, and is providing extra professional development. She adds, the kids are having a blast.

Karen Richards has been a KLCC reporter since the fall of 2012.
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