HIGHLAND PARK/HIGHWOOD — With full-day kindergarten now a reality for North Shore School District 112 families, administrators are starting to paint a picture of what the school day will be like for students in the program.
The District 112 Board of Education received a briefing on the developing structure of full-day kindergarten January 9 at the District offices in Highland Park. Families registering their children to start school in the fall are overwhelmingly opting for the new offering.
Of the 120 families who have registered their children for kindergarten in the 2018-2019 school year, only four want their youngsters to go for half a day, according to Kristin Swanson, the district’s assistant superintendent for student services.
Kindergarten students in the elongated program will start their day at 8:40 a.m. and finish at 3:17 p.m. The half-day class will start at 8:10 a.m. and be done at noon. When full day is offered, districts are required by state law to also provide a half-day alternative, according to Kevin Ryan, the assistant superintendant for teaching and learning.
While both half-day and full-day students will receive approximately the same amount of instruction in math and English language arts, Ryan said the children there all day will have art, music, library and physical education added to their curriculum.
Ryan’s presentation showed full-day youngsters will have an hour of art once a week, 20 minutes of music twice a week, 30 minutes of physical education daily and half an hour a week in the library.
As administrators and teachers continue to build the program, they will take a look at other full-day kindergartens in the area to use as a guide. These include Deerfield Public Schools District 109, Northbrook School District 27, Lake Bluff School District 65, Diamond Lake School District 76 and Kildeer Countryside School District 96.
The district will hold a kindergarten information night at 7 p.m. January 16 at the district office on Green Bay Road in Highland Park. Parents can learn about the registration process for full-day kindergarten, half-day kindergarten and the dual language program.
Along with outlining the kindergarten program, Ryan told the board what the district is doing to bring the academic performance of the students closer to that in neighboring school districts.
In District 112, 48.2 percent of the students met or exceeded state standards on the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test given last school year. Other North Shore districts ranged between 56 and 81 percent, according to a November 5 DailyNorthShore.com story.
Ryan said new programs with intense teacher training have been implemented with the intent to make them consistent in all the district’s schools. A new writing program is in place for students in grades one through five and a new math curriculum for kindergartners through fifth graders.
“We have this across all buildings so we don’t have differences from building to building,” said Ryan. “We have introduced pacing to make sure everyone keeps pace. There is a serious reading gap we need to address.”
Board member Art Kessler wanted to know why the district could not hire its own coaches to help train teachers as other districts do. Ryan said that was a goal but now there is a need for a crash course. Interim Superintendent Ed Rafferty said developing internal coaching and training takes time.
“This is the first year,” said Rafferty. “Most of the districts that have (full time coaches) developed the program in five to six years. We have a lot of needs and so many gaps.”
Teachers are also receiving instruction in collaborative education where students can work together so more of them are engaged at the same time.
“You probably remember how the teacher asked a question, everyone raises their hand, the teacher calls on one student and everyone else tunes out,” said Ryan. “We have to get more kids involved in the process.”