News

Paid kindergarten now in six schools

By ELIZABETH CIEPIELA

Staff Writer

The 2003-04 school year will bring an all-day, fee-based kindergarten to Woodmont Elementary School in Federal Way.

In the past, the school has had two half-day kindergarten schedules –– one with hours from 8:50 a.m. to 3:20 p.m., the other from 12:35 to 3:20 p.m.

The full-day, fee-based kindergarten –– which parents can enroll their children in for a fee of $1,900 spread over 10 months –– is not new to Federal Way Public Schools. Other elementary schools that have incorporated the program are Brigadoon, Panther Lake, Sherwood Forest, Lakeland and Adelaide.

According to the school district, all-day leads to better results in math, reading and language and gives teachers more time to individualize instruction.

Woodmont’s revamped kindergarten, which will take place from 8:50 a.m. to 3:20 p.m., isn’t intended to function as an alternative to daycare, according to Jane Sullivan, a kindergarten teacher at the school. Rather, it is intended to help students learn with more depth and experience than they can obtain from the traditional half-day program, she said.

“You can explore topics in greater depths,” said Sullivan.

There is more opportunity for kids to have hands-on experience in class with a full-day program, she explained. A half-day is “always a push and a squeeze,” she said.

Sullivan, who attended a two-day workshop in Olympia with fellow teacher Heidi Batten, said they are designing a curriculum together. Sullivan said they will focus on reading, math, writing and hands-on experiments, such as cooking and musical activities. Cooking, games and more science emphasis might also be added.

Woodmont will offer two full-day kindergarten classes and one half-day kindergarten class. Parents must register their children for the all-day kindergarten program by August 25. So far, 10 children have been registered. Bobbie Graesch, an office manager for Woodmont, said the program is set up for 21 students. The cost is $190 per month for 10 months - the average price for the program throughout the school district.

Financial assistance will be available the coming school year - some of the funds generated by I-728 will be used to provide financial assistance for students who qualify under the district’s free and reduced lunch program.

The program has a strong success rate. Sandy Huggins, principal of Brigadoon - where the program was piloted in the Federal Way district in 199 - said she has seen a positive difference in students.

“We’ve found that the program has been very powerful and that the students meet district standards –– every single one of them,” Huggins said.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565, eciepiela@fedwaymirror.com

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