Parkrose Schools’ new full-day kindergarten program promotes academics

Why is this school district paying for the full day program? You’ll learn why they are enthusiastic about this stepped-up program for their 5-year-olds right here, along with photos of some very cute students …

Parkrose School District’s new Director of School Improvement, Jeff Rose, says the introduction of full-day kindergarten at all of their elementary schools will help students to better throughout their educational experience.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As school ended in Parkrose last June, we told you how – with the approval of incoming Parkrose School Superintendent Dr. Karen Fischer Gray – the district was being reorganized.

Jeff Rose, formerly the Principal at Russell Academy of Academic Achievement, was named to the newly-created post, Director of School Improvement.

Last week, we asked Rose to name the most significant change the district is undertaking this school year.

“The most important is offering full-day kindergarten at every one of our elementary schools,” Rose replied.

Rose said the district is fortunate in that they have the physical classroom space in all of their facilities for the full-day kindergarten program.

“We made the determination that one of the best investments we could make in our students’ education was full-day kindergarten. We put it our budget, making it available to every student in every school,” said Rose.

Touring the schools
We were delighted when several of the Parkrose schools invited us to see their kindergarteners participating in their first week of their educational careers….

Russell Academy of Academic Achievement

Margaret Goff’s kindergarteners enjoy story time during class at Russell Academy

At Russell Academy of Academic Achievement, we’re greeted by the school’s new Principal, Debbie Ebert, an educator with 17 years experience, five of them at Russell Academy.

“What we’ve talked about, as educators here at Russell, is the importance of having longer periods of time to get the job done,” Ebert says about their new kindergarten program. “While they did their best to teach foundation skills of reading, writing, and math, kindergarten teachers found their two-and-a-half hours a day to be too fragmented and short.”

“What is the ‘C’ sound?” asks Heather Bailey as she teaches phonics to her kindergarteners at Russell Academy.

Ebert continued, saying a full day of classes also allows teachers to incorporate more social skills learning, like “play etiquette”.

Basic literacy training, Ebert stated, is the foundation for everything. “If they have a good foundation, all of the subject areas become easier for them.”

Diane Larson with her class of new students at Russell Academy.

Diane Larson spoke with us before her tykes came back to class from morning recess. “With a whole day, we can teach these students in a way that is more developmentally appropriate for their age.”

This is not babysitting, Larson stressed. “By the end of the year, most kids are reading at some level. They can write a couple of sentences. They know the rules – but even more, they know how to be a learner. That’s our goal.”

Shaver Elementary School

Diane Carlsen helps her kindergarteners learn how to make crafts at Shaver Elementary School.

Cindy Bartman, principal of Shaver Elementary School, cheerfully greeted us at her school’s door. She’s a respected educator, having taught for 21 years, and being in administration for the past seven.

“Especially at our school,” Bartman began, “I think full-day kindergarten gives a tremendous advantage to our students. About fifty percent of our kids are Hispanic. They come to us with no English. Being allowed to have a full day of kindergarten, our students get much more English language development than they would during a short day.”

Shaver Elementary kindergarten teacher Michaelle Lenius works on a project that teaches shapes with her new learners.

By the time their students enter first grade, Bartman continued, “they’re already learning to read and write. We’re very academic; it is truly a bonus for students to go into first grade knowing phonics – how to put sounds together – and starting developing strong vocabulary skills, as well.”

The Shaver Principal went on to mention that, in addition to Spanish, their students come from homes in which eleven other non-English languages are spoken. “Here, everybody gets a fair chance at learning English. They all benefit.”

Sacramento Elementary School

Dianna Recinos teaches her class at Sacramento Elementary School.

Completing our tour was a visit to Sacramento Elementary School. Principal Stevie Blakely echoed the sentiments we heard from educators at the other schools.

“This year,” Blakely noted, “We have 72 kindergarteners at the school. We have had parents who have not sent their other kids to part-day kindergarten. Now that we’re offering a full-time academic kindergarten, we’re having more parents who want their kids to participate.”

Parkrose 5-year-olds can enroll in kindergarten late as September 30, under certain circumstances. Check with the district office for details.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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