Del Mar school district moves to full-day kindergarten

The Del Mar Union School District will move to full-day kindergarten starting in the 2015-16 school year. The board voted unanimously in favor of the change at their Jan. 21 meeting and additionally voted to no longer offer transitional kindergarten or early admission for students who do not meet the cut-off date.

“I just want the public to know we feel good about this as far as being developmentally appropriate for children,” said trustee Kristin Gibson. “These standards encourage a different day, more activities and more social interaction and I know our teachers know what is appropriate for children.”

Shelley Petersen, the assistant superintendent of educational services, said an extended day doesn’t mean they are moving from teaching 40 minutes of math to two hours of math—it’s an extra five and a half hours of added time balanced with age appropriate material and academic rigor.

“A full day allows for us to really pace that cognitive rigor throughout the day and that’s where the social and emotional development occurs,” Petersen said. “We will have a rich kindergarten program that really honors the whole child and a full day schedule will allows us to do that even better than we do now.”

Kindergartners will now attend from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with minimum days on Wednesdays. For the first six weeks of the school year there will be a half-day program to help students acclimate and allow teachers to do initial assessments with students.

The change brings the district in line with all neighboring school districts that offer full-day kindergarten. The closest district that does not is Carlsbad Unified School District.

Currently DMUSD kindergarteners attend school from 8 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. four days a week and 8 a.m. to 12:30 plus an hour extra until 1:45 p.m. in small group settings one day a week.

Petersen said kindergarten teachers requested more time in the instructional day with their students so in the spring of 2014 the district embarked on a process of examining the possible shift to full-day, meeting with all eight schools’ instructional teams. Petersen said the key advantages of a full day program are allowing teachers more time to design an instructional day with more cognitive rigor and increased experiential based activities that help reach students’ social and emotional needs.

“In that extended day of one hour one time a week, that one hour has been a valued part of our instructional program and teachers really felt they accomplished a great deal during that time,” Petersen said. “The teachers still wanted that time to assess students in a one to one setting.”

By lengthening the day, she said rather than have small group instruction or social studies or writing every other day, there will be more opportunities to have all the pieces in place on a daily basis.

At all eight sites, over half of kindergartners currently remain in after-school childcare rather than go home at 12:45 p.m. Petersen said the district also hopes to find a way to accommodate their “incredible” after school staff, “We don’t want to lose them,” she said.

This year will be the last year that the district offers transitional kindergarten.

The district began a transitional kindergarten program in 2012-13 and it was offered for three years as the result of the rollback of kindergarten start date. The kindergarten start date rolled back one month every school year since 2012—for the 2014-15 school year kindergarten students must be five before Sept. 1.

Over the last few years, the district had offered early admission for students who were not yet five before the start date but Petersen recommended the board discontinue this practice.

“Students find the greatest chance for success when they fall within the recommended age start date,” Petersen said.

There will now be a firm cut-off date and no opportunity to appeal, according to Superintendent Holly McClurg.