EDUCATION MATTERS: School board candidates answer questions

Marsha Sutton
Marsha Sutton

By Marsha Sutton

Contributor

As predicted, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger approved the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, also known as Senate Bill 1381, which will require children to be 5 years old by Sept. 1 to enter kindergarten.

Current law requires children to turn 5 by Dec. 2. The Kindergarten Readiness Act will move the date back one month, beginning in the year 2012, when the cutoff date will be Nov. 1. In 2013, it will be Oct. 1, and in 2014 the cutoff date will be Sept. 1where it will remain.

There is widespread support for SB-1381. Reasons generally center around increased demands for academic performance by younger students and the need for children to be better prepared for more accelerated classroom activities than the traditional kindergarten of years past.

"Today's kindergarten classroom is a much different place than most of us experienced," said state Sen. Joe Simitian, the bill's sponsor, in a press release.

Because of these rising expectations on kindergartners, many school districts have shifted over the years from half-day to full-day kindergarten.

Yet the Del Mar Union School District has maintained its half-day program in the face of the trend toward full day, although the DMUSD does offer a unique and well-liked pullout program of small group instruction once a week for its youngest students.

Since this issue has received some attention in the past few years, the five candidates for the Del Mar Union School District's Board of Education were asked to provide their thoughts on the subject. Following are their responses.

Kristin Gibson:

I'm aware some studies connect full day kindergarten to higher achievement, but there's no conclusive research indicating it's the best option in every situation. It depends on what children do during the school day, what they do after school, and on the needs, resources and abilities of parents. Kindergarten is more academically demanding than in the past and we need to consider what's developmentally appropriate. I do not believe full day kindergarten is currently necessary for our children. However, I realize respected educators feel differently about the subject, so I intend on keeping an open mind.

Jason Maletic:

I think full day kindergarten is a great idea. Studies show that students in full day programs show greater progress in math, reading and social skills. This would also allow students to interact with one another for longer periods and more time to work on creative projects. However, if this is fiscally possible is another matter. If I am elected and had a chance to be on "the inside looking out" I would have access to information to help the board decide if this is a possibility.

Steven McDowell:

Previously, the board heard strong arguments from parents and staff that felt our students were best served by having a shorter day since it allowed parents to spend extra time with their kindergartner while the rest of their kids were still in school. Staff and parents also indicated students benefit from the smaller group extended day sessions. It was also noted if kindergarten was extended to a full day, the district would have to provide additional enrichment support for the 120 minutes of prep time included in the union contract. Based on the above input from our community and the staff, the board has supported the shorter day. The board also indicated it was a subject that will need to be brought up again.

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