Weiser's kindergarten to expand to full day this fall

Abby Rollins, Adalyn Sorensen and Olivia Froshiesar were bluebirds this last year at Pioneer Elementary School. This coming school year, parents will have the option of the traditional half-time bluebird schedule or full-time kindergarten. Teachers feel this will allow more time for the structured curriculum and for art and structured play time as well. The state also has allocated more funding to improve the literacy skills of students. Photo by Nicole Miller
Nicole Miller
For nearly 20 years kindergarten at Pioneer Elementary School in Weiser has been made up of red birds and bluebirds with each student attending only every other day. This fall, however, Weiser school district will offer families the option of full-time kindergarten. 
 Many research studies exist that illustrate the importance of early education opportunities as well as the educational value that they provide for children during their critical developmental years..
 Although most states support a full-time kindergarten option for children, the state of Idaho only funds half-time kindergarten.
 The models that districts use around the state for implementing their half-time kindergarten programs vary.  Some districts offer half day everyday programs (an a.m. session and a separate p.m. session daily), others implement a full-day every-other-day model. This is the model that Pioneer school has used for several years. 
 This model has pros and cons, Superintendent Wade Wilson said.  One of the major drawbacks is that it is difficult to create consistency, routine, and daily repetition for children when their schedule changes every day.  
 And for a kindergarten student who misses a day of school (due to illness or other), it could be a full seven days before they have a chance to return to school.  (For example, if a student attends school on Tuesday but is ill on Thursday – and it is not their Friday to be in school – they don’t return to school until the next Tuesday.)
 Before the downturn in the economy in 2009 Pioneer school offered some of our kindergarten students an opportunity to attend full-time kindergarten for part of the year, Wilson said they observed some wonderful growth in KED students’ abilities.
 In an effort to help improve the literacy skills of all children in Idaho and to ensure that more children are reading “at grade level” by the end of their third grade year, in 2016 the Idaho Legislature began to appropriate funds dedicated for students in kindergarten through third grade designed to improve intervention opportunities for children who scored below benchmark on the Fall Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI).  
 On the recommendation of Gov. Brad Little, funding for literacy intervention will almost double next year. 
 There were a few school districts around the state that added a full-time kindergarten option for some or all of their students using their portion of literacy intervention funds when it first came out in 2016 and Wilson has heard from  many districts who are planning to implement the full-time option this coming school year due to the increase in funding that they will receive this next year. 
 Although Pioneer school already uses some of the literacy funds to hire additional staff to work with students and provide tutor support for struggling students, it is Wilson’s recommendation that the district use a portion of the funds to offer full-time kindergarten to our students. 
 Although they do not have the funds or classroom space to double the staff, full-time kindergarten will serve as an option for some of the students and their families. 
 Wilson also said that he realizes  that full-time kindergarten is not the best option for all.  Some families like the half-time program so that they have more time to provide enriching opportunities for their children at home.  
 Other families have their kindergarten child attend other local programs on their off-school days (attend programs such as the Greenhouse program run by Gretchen Davis or Imagination Station run by Tammra VanNess).  Others just want to ease their child into full-time school by starting with half-time kindergarten. 
 The plan for the coming year is to offer families a choice: traditional half time kindergarten or full-time kindergarten for their child. 
 For those that choose the traditional half-time program, it will operate the same as it always has. Students will meet on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every-other Friday for a full day. For those that choose the full-time program (as long as there is space available), their child will attend school all day everyday.
 While the program will focus on increased literacy, the teachers are also excited to have more time to teach the full curriculum and even have more time for structured play – which studies show is  important to child learning and development.
 Wilson said that the hope is that by expanding the kindergarten option that Pioneer school will meet an education need for school day consistency that some of the students need in order to perform at their best level. 


Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718

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