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All-day kindergarten available at all FW elementary schools

All elementary schools in Federal Way will offer free all-day kindergarten by Sept. 30, thanks to an additional financial windfall.

On Aug. 23, the district discovered that its new LAP (local assistance program) allocation could include money for all-day kindergarten, said Cindy Black, the district's executive director of elementary education.

"So we ended up pulling in the seven remaining schools and said, 'What do you think? What's the reality of getting this started?'" Black said at the school board's Sept. 10 meeting

The remaining schools' administrators "jumped on board" and were "thrilled to have the opportunity" to offer all-day kindergarten to their students, Black said. She noted that Superintendent Rob Neu said the district should move cautiously, asking for a poll of parents of those students to see if it was feasible for them.

"So they did that (polling), and very few people were unable to think their kids weren't ready for this. The majority of them, supermajority of them, were all on board," Black noted.

Starting Sept. 30, three elementary schools — Green Gables, Enterprise and Meredith Hill  — will have fully implemented their all-day classes going, and the district will have every school with all-day kindergarten. The other four elementary schools to adopt all-day kindergarten are Lakeland, Twin Lakes, Woodmont and Sherwood Forest.

"You know what that means for our kids and how it's going to impact their education and opportunity, and we are so excited to have made this happen for our district," Black said.

With the short preparation period because of the late timing on the funding, Black noted that there's a transition program occurring for those parents and students who might not be up to the challenge quite yet.

"For those families that were not quite certain their kids were ready…or that they were ready, we created an opportunity to transition them on their time so they didn't have to make that call. They could start half-day, and then we'll work on stamina, for both the moms and dads and the kids, to get them ready for all-day."

Board member Claire Wilson, who specializes in early learning development with the Puget Sound Educational Service District, said the expansion of all-day kindergarten is another step in the right direction for student learning in their youngest years.

"It helps us on our pathway…We've done the early learning work, so we know we're creating that pathway for families," she said. "And oftentimes, I don't think we believe our kids can do what they can do, when they're ready to do it. I'm very proud and just so excited."

In a press release, Neu said these additional all-day classes will have a long-lasting impact on FWPS students.

"We are extremely pleased to be able to accelerate the state's plan to make free all-day kindergarten available to all students (in the state) within the next three years," he said. "Improving our academic outcomes at the high school level starts by getting kids off to a great start in their early years, and free all-day kindergarten is key to that."

 

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