Fairfax County School Board votes to fund expansion of full-day kindergarten

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By Holly Hobbs
Fairfax County Times
Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fairfax County public schools moved a step closer Feb. 3 to fulfilling a longtime goal of providing full-day kindergarten at all elementary schools in the county.

School Board members voted unanimously to include $8.1 million in next year's proposed budget for the expansion of full-day kindergarten over the next three years to the 37 schools that operate half-day programs. Fairfax County has 137 public elementary schools.

"We're very, very excited," Sunrise Valley Elementary Principal Elizabeth English said.

Under the School Board's 2006 plan, the Reston school was to be in the last group to have full-day kindergarten, which would have been implemented there in 2009.

But the recession and the drop in revenue to the county stalled that plan in fiscal 2009, as officials no longer had funds for new programs. That left 37 schools with half-day kindergarten.

"Because we have so many working parents, many of our morning kindergartners stay" for child care, she said. "So instead of having day care, they could have instruction."

Schools with half-day programs must cram six hours of instruction into three, said Margot Scheufele, Sunrise Valley's lone kindergarten teacher.

"The curriculum has become progressively more academic. We don't just do color and shapes anymore," she said, adding that math and reading curriculums have become more rigorous.

Scheufele teaches a morning kindergarten class of 29 students and an afternoon class of 25. "The issue for me is, while 29 students in one class is not ideal, at least I'll be getting more time with them," she said.

Having more instructional time also would allow students to gain structured playtime - important for building social skills - and quiet time, formerly nap time, she said.

Rebecca Sobel has kindergarten-age twin girls who attend Eagle View Elementary in Fairfax, which has a full-day program.

At full-day program schools, "there is much more time to spend in every curriculum area,"said Sobel, a half-day kindergarten teacher at Louise Archer Elementary School. "Where we're going through [lessons] very quickly, they have more time to really perfect it. . . . I've been in the county for a long time, and it's something that's needed to happen."


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