Covington | Maple Valley Reporter
By REBECCA GOURLEY
By the 2016-17 school year, every elementary school in the state will be eligible to receive funding for all-day kindergarten.
At the end of this year’s legislative session, lawmakers included a general fund apportionment of $174 million to the operating budget for the continued statewide implementation of full-day kindergarten.
The roll-out of all-day kindergarten started at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. By the 2016-17 school year, all schools in Washington will be eligible, and at the start of the 2017-18 school year it will be full implemented.
Schools with a higher percentage of free and reduced lunch participants were eligible first.
Some districts beat the state to the punch and started offering all-day kindergarten before funds were allocated for it.
The Kent School District has had all-day kindergarten since the 2011-12 school year, said Page Meyer, director of early learning for the district.
“There’s a need in this community for our families to have access to all-day kindergarten,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday.
A day in the life of a full-day kindergartner, Meyer said, is very focused on content. Chunks of their days are concentrated on math, science, English and language arts, directed play and building social and emotional skills, she said.
Although naps aren’t included in the curriculum, Meyer said, “Developmentally, they can do it (without a nap).”
Now that the state will be funding all-day kindergarten, that allows the Kent School District to put the money it’s currently spending on it toward other programs.
The district hasn’t decided where that money will go, but Meyer said she hopes it will go toward other early learning programs.
One of the elements of all-day kindergarten that the state’s money does not fund is space. Migrating kindergarten classrooms from partial days to full days will increase the amount of space needed for the students.
For that reason, the Tahoma School District will hold off on implementing all-day kindergarten until the new high school opens in the fall of 2017, said Kevin Patterson, spokesperson for the district.
After it’s fully implemented, state Sen. Joe Fain said all-day kindergarten will cost the state $270 million annually.
The plan to fully fund all-day kindergarten was put into motion during the 2009 legislative session, Fain said. However, the Supreme Court decision in the McCleary case, which declared in 2012 the legislature has not fulfilled its obligation to fully fund education, is what gave the legislature the extra push to start implementation of full-day kindergarten during the last biennium’s budget.
Educationally, Fain said, full days of instruction for kindergarteners has been shown to improve information retention.
“(The) all day aspect of (kindergarten), reduces the amount of knowledge that gets lost,” he said.
In addition, Fain said, teachers become more sensitive “to students’ needs when (they) have longer time with them.”