Fairfax Parents Group Pushes For Full Day Kindergarten

3:13 PM, Jan 20, 2011   |    comments
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FAIRFAX STATION, Va.  (WUSA) -- Silverbrook Elementary School is one of the "Forgotten 37" according to a new parents group. It's one of 37 elementary schools in Fairfax County that still does not have full day kindergarten.

"Shocked that we don't have full day kindergarten. Because all the research supports that children need the time to learn," says Shaista Keating.

The mother of two was so disturbed Fairfax County doesn't have full day kindergarten across the board and in her children's school, that she helped start Fairfax for Full Day Kindergarten to pressure the superintendent, school board, and supervisors to allocate the money to make it happen.

"In a $2.2 billion budget," Keating says, the county should be able to find the money to extend all the half-day programs.

Several years ago, Fairfax County had a plan and a schedule to bring full day kindergarten to every school. In fact, by 2011, it would have been in every elementary school. But then the recession hit, and the plan got tossed out the window.

Superintendent Jack Dale's current budget plan does not include adding full day kindergarten to any more schools. Currently 139 Fairfax County elementary schools, many of those with the neediest children, do have full day kindergarten. But Keating says the fact some have it and some don't creates an unfair inequity.

"There is a huge sentiment that it's not equitable. That some five- year-olds in Fairfax County enjoy it, and some five-year-olds don't. So, yes, I think that it's time for this equity to happen," says Keating.

At a recent summit about full day kindergarten, George Mason University professor Dr. Tim Curby, an expert on child psychology and child development, said research shows all children learn more in full day kindergarten.

"If you have full day kindergarten, you give teachers more opportunities to teach, and children more opportunities to learn. And that is what full day kindergarten gets you, but it doesn't for those students who are currently missing out," said Curby.

Silverbrook Principal Dr. Melaney Mackin, who is also president of the Fairfax Association of Elementary School Principals, says she's seen a big difference in first graders who've attended full day.

"You do a lot more extensive learning and enrichment, there's just more time for all of that," Mackin says.

She says that in half-day classrooms, teachers must teach the same curriculum in 3 hours, instead of 6, putting more pressure on both teachers and students to learn.

A spokesman for Fairfax County Schools says they absolutely want to have full day kindergarten in every elementary school. But it takes money for more teachers and more space, money the school system doesn't have.

Written by Peggy Fox
9NEWS NOW & wusa9.com

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