There are two kindergarten options offered by the district at this time, an all day kindergarten at every elementary school and a half day option at Ferry Elementary School in Grosse Pointe Woods.
The district moved from a half day program to an all day program in every building two years ago. I know there are some of the opinion that the switch occurred very rapidly, with little discussion. I would like to take a moment to explain how I personally reached the decision to support the dual offerings.
Three years ago all the kindergarten teachers in the district asked to meet with administration and board members. I was the lone board member to attend this meeting. Administration was present, as were the elementary principals and the kindergarten teachers. They presented a very comprehensive explanation requesting the move to an all day kindergarten. Their main concern was that an all day curriculum was being taught in three hours. They felt that many our students were very young, and that the kindergarten curriculum was becoming more reflective of a first grade class. Keep in mind during the three hours the children also have specials, bathroom breaks and snacks. In the winter getting boots, snowpants and jackets on were also a challenge. During this time there was talk in Lansing of mandating a full day kindergarten and every person at the meeting agreed an all day option was in the best interest of the students. At this same time the district offered an Extended Day option that parents were required to pay for. This program was housed at every elementary school but two. It was governed by many regulations as it was a day care situation in the afternoon with very little academic offering. Moving to an all day option slowed the pace in the classroom and offered the ability to provide academic support in the afternoon. Registration data also showed that approximately one hundred students were entering the Grosse Pointe Public School system in first grade after attending other programs for kindergarten. The districts philosophy is the sooner students can be integrated in the school system and be exposed to the curriculum the more academic success the student will have. These were all the reasons I supported the additional program and the ability as a district to offer it for free. The board eventually voted 7-0 to approve an all day option while still offering a half day program.
All of that being said the half day program offers the exact same curriculum as the all day class. Mrs. Lucido is the teacher at Ferry who teaches this class. She is enthusiastic, engaging and committed to the program and students. Her class this year includes students from all over the district. Mrs. Lucido sends suggestions home for families to complete together to provide support to what the students are learning in class. The students from both offerings are very successful and continue to do well in their academic careers.
The board and the district support a half day option, the reality is at this time there are only eight students registered for the half day option. As with any program the district offers, enrollment is a driving factor. There must be enough students enrolled for the district to be able to offer the program. Administration is always reviewing enrollment data at all levels. Anyone who has a student who has been in high school is aware that some classes have been eliminated or combined or only offered at one school. It is an unfortunate reality in these very difficult financial times.
The State Legislature continues to engage in mandating specific terms for school districts. The starting date for kindergarten will slowly be rolled back year by year, starting in 2013 until the student must be 5 by September 1st. Currently students must turn 5 on or before December 1st. Funding for kindergarten is also changing, starting in 2012 districts will only receive half the foundation allowance for students enrolled in a half day program. Even with the financial loss the district is committed to offering a half day option as long as there are enough students enrolled.
This is a personal decision for every family. If your family is considering the half day option and has not registered yet, the deadline to register is noon May 30th. The district website offers registration information for both programs at www.gppss.org. I encourage all residents with kindergarten age children to enroll in the program of their choice, as soon as possible. This helps administration plan staffing accordingly. The district will be prepared to meet the educational needs of all students. The district looks forward to welcoming our youngest learners this fall.