White River hustles to implement free, all-day kindergarten

When the White River School District welcomes students Sept. 3, those students will include kindergartners, attending all day, for free.

“How’s that for exciting news!” Superintendent Janel Keating beamed as the district begins preparing to open its doors.  She said it’s the best way to kick off the 2013-14 school year. “Just think – more students than ever before will start school on a solid foundation, and each grade – right up through high school graduation – will reap these benefits for years to come.

Keating, district leaders and staff have been analyzing White River’s kindergarten data for the past four years and found students in all-day kindergarten had greater growth in all early literacy skills assessed districtwide, including letter names, letter sounds and the ability to identify phonemes (the smallest unit of sound in individual words).

“We all know that student learning depends to a great degree on early success in the primary grades,” Keating said.

All-day kindergarten is not new to the White River School District, which has been providing an all-day, tuition-based option. But having kindergarten all day, for free, Keating said, is the result of passionate work by dedicated people, starting with legislators who worked until July to send the district a budget that reflected support for early-learning opportunities.

Despite the wait for the budget, district leaders are ready to go.

“Implementing such a big change right before the beginning of a new school year has meant that a significant number of people have had to work extra hard in a short time frame to make this happen,” Keating said. “Their hard work and can-do attitude is greatly appreciated. Another thing that makes this district so great is that our people will go above and beyond to get the things done that will help more kids learn more. The White River team truly works to create schools that they would want their own children to attend, rather simply than create schools in which it would be easy to work.”

The district will provide all-day kindergarten at each of its four elementary schools. For more information, parents should call the school in which a child is enrolled. School offices open Aug. 20.

Parents who have made all-day kindergarten tuition payments for the 2013-14 school year will be refunded their fees in a timely manner.


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