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Full-time kindergarten to begin next fall at Colman-Egan

Posted: Tuesday, Dec 17th, 2013

It has been a major point of concern at the school since about this time last year, but the issue has finally been resolved – Colman-Egan will have all day, every day kindergarten at the start of next year.

“It is time for the change,” C-E Superintendent Darold Rounds stated. “The amount of time children spend in kindergarten has evolved over the years from two to three weeks in the spring, to the present day where most schools have kindergarten everyday, all school year long,” he added.

This year, and for the past several years, Colman-Egan has had their Kindergarten students attend school Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for the first nine weeks of the school year, then all day every day the rest of the school year.

That was causing a lot of concern with some people because not only did they think the kids were behind the other students at other schools, but they would inevitably miss more than just those 18 days due to teacher in-services; the school board changed the in-service dates for the 2013 school year so that the kindergarteners would not miss any extra days.

Despite the changes, Rounds decided to bring the topic back to the school board this year. After a public forum, and weeks upon weeks of discussion and research, the Colman-Egan School Board approved the change to full day, all day kindergarten.

Part of the discussion involved how much more money it would cost the school to operate the new schedule.

“The change would increase the district salary, social security, and retirement compensation by $3,841.51,” Rounds said. The figures were based off the 2013-14 salary schedule so that figure is likely to change next year.

But the argument against the rise in cost is, if you retain just one more student that would otherwise go to another school for kindergarten, you will more than make up for those costs.

“The current per student allocation from the state of South Dakota is $4,626.65,” Rounds said, although with the school being a ‘small school’ they actually receive a bit more than that.

Although the numbers for the 2014-15 school year will not be set until the close of the legislation process in January, the Governor has proposed a 3% increase in schools next year, which would raise the per student allocation to $4,765 per student.

But beside the money factor, it just made sense in his mind. “It has been proven over and over again that early intervention is the key to success in children, especially those with special needs.”

State law require students to be in school by the age of six, but according to Rounds, it has always been the parents right to choose when their child starts school.

“Many parents used to think that going to kindergarten every day was too much to ask of their children, but since several progressive schools, like Colman-Egan, have started a pre-school program, many parents now think their child is ready for every day kindergarten.”

So what will Kindergarten teacher Amie Hemmer do with the extra 18 days? “The curriculum wont be different, as we have covered the kindergarten standards throughout our ninety percent schedule all along. The change in schedule will allow us to expand our time spent on that same curriculum,” Hemmer said.

And she knows that it will be an adjustment for the kids but hopes to make it work for everyone.

“I have a few ideas in mind, so that we can continue to ease them into the vigorous new schedule. Hopefully we can make it a smooth transition for them each year.”

One of the goals of the change was to retain young children that were leaving the district before ever starting there, and going to other schools with a more full time kindergarten schedule; according to Rounds, that is still somewhat out of their control. “That is ultimately a parent’s choice, but I think students will stay in our district.”

Time will tell, but for now, it is an exciting time for Colman-Egan and something Superintendent Rounds is glad he could get accomplished before he retires at the end of the year.

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