Rapid City schools plan move to full-day kindergarten - KOTA Territory News

Children First: Rapid City schools plan for full-day kindergarten

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Increased standards of learning for South Dakota students is causing administrators to re-think school schedules at Rapid City Area Schools.

After teaching reading, writing and math to kindergartners for 30 years, Corral Drive Elementary School Teacher Diane Ross knows how hard it is to build a strong academic foundation in her students.

"To kind of squish it into two and a half hours, or two hours and forty–five minutes in each day is pretty stressful for the kids and for the teachers," Ross said.

Soon school could become even more demanding for Ross and her kids as the state begins to implement its new Common Core Standards for learning.

"The common core standards, are more intense, and more rigorous, and (we) will need more time to thoroughly and in depth cover all the subject areas," Ross said.

"The number of standards and the amount that children have to learn in kindergarten based on the Common Core is more than a grade level ahead of our current kindergarten standards," said Rapid City Schools Assistant Superintendent Katie Bray.

Bray has been working with local teacher and steering committee leader Charlene Crosswait to find a solution to the problem. Their answer: full day kindergarten.

"We'll build a stronger foundation, they'll be stronger academically, and they'll move through the system, we hope as stronger academic students," Bray said.

Two elementary schools in the district, Knollwood and General Beadle, already offer full day kindergarten classes, and first grade teachers say there's a big difference in the academic preparedness of their students.

"Students come in ready to learn, they know what school's all about, we don't have to spend a lot of time working on procedures and expectations, what it looks like to stand in line," said Knollwood Elementary First Grade Teacher Cary Roller.

Bray says up to 24 new teachers will be hired in order to implement full day kindergarten across the district next year, but the salary expense might be worth it in the long – run.

"Full day kindergarten is a great return on your investment because it's a lot cheaper to put your time and energy into teaching them reading and math skills when they're younger and setting the foundation versus trying to do remediation when they're let's say in fourth or fifth grade and they're still not getting it," Roller said. 

But it's not just the district that may be saving. Ross says for many parents the money saved on child care and the time saved in transit back and forth to school will be invaluable.

"I think parents are very excited about it and I know all the teachers are very excited that kindergarten will be all day long," Ross said.

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Rapid City, SD 57701

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