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Changes in store for B-A kindergarten students

Changes are in store for next year’s kindergarten students in the Bellwood-Antis School District.
In March, several parents of future kindergarten students attended the Bellwood-Antis School Board meeting as rumors of changes at the school were circulating.
Currently, Bellwood-Antis is the only school district in Blair County that does not offer all day kindergarten.
According to B-A superintendent, Brian Toth, the schools are placed under federal mandates and state standards that the district must adhere to, even at the kindergarten level.
“We need to move to an all day kindergarten to complete all the needed curriculum requirements,” said Toth, “School expectations today are not what they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Elementary schools are not exempt from state and federal requirements.
“We are doing the best we can to meet the requirements but change is needed to do the job we are charged to do.”
Board president, Donna Tyler said, “The board has been working very diligently with elementary school principal Terri Harpster, and we’re going to try to make this as easy a transaction as possible.”
A parent meeting was held in March for parents and guardians of students entering kindergarten for the 2006-07 school year, which provided them with the opportunity to view the revised morning and afternoon schedules and discuss arrival and departure times, the daily schedule, food service and transportation.
At the April school board meeting, the four hour extended day kindergarten schedule was approved, beginning with the 2006-07 school year.
Tyler expressed her thanks, along with the board, for all the work Harpster put into the scheduling change.
With the changes, the morning kindergarten session will begin at 7:55 a.m. and end at 11:55 a.m. Students will be offered breakfast in a bag. They will have specials, including art, library, music and physical education by a specialized teacher on Day 1 of the rotation.
The afternoon session will begin at 11:25 a.m. and end at 3:25 p.m. These students will be offered a bagged lunch. Specials will be scheduled on Day 3.
One concern for parents was how their children would be transported to and from school. According to school officials, the kindergarten students who qualify for district transportation will not be transported with middle or high school students.
Also, with a longer day scheduled for the children, the bagged breakfasts and lunches will be available. With this program, parents can apply for the free or reduced meal program. As always, children can choose to pack their meal.
The morning schedule begins with the arrival and opening followed by Fast Track phonics, shared reading, kid writing and differentiated literacy groups. Breakfast on the go and recess will be held beginning at 10 a.m. Afterwards, numeracy centers and whole group math is planned. Music, art projects or read aloud in the classroom will be held prior to dismissal of the a.m. group. This schedule will be altered on Day 1 to include specials.
The afternoon students will arrive at 11:25 a.m. for the opening followed by music, art projects or read aloud in the library, music or art rooms. Back in the classroom students will then participate in shared reading, differentiated literacy groups and kid writing, prior to lunch on the go and recess at 1:30 p.m. After lunch, numeracy centers, whole group math and Fast Track phonics are scheduled before dismissal. Changes will be made to the afternoon schedule on Day 3 to allow time for specials.
According to Harpster, extending the hours provides more time for students to spend on phonics, kid writing, reading groups and math.
With the current schedule, teachers are only able to fit in the basics. For example, they often have to pass up using manipulatives during math class because of the time constraints. At this age level, manipulatives can really help students grasp different concepts.
There are other adjustments that will have to be made to accommodate the changing schedule, including the addition of a part-time teacher to work in both of the kindergarten classrooms. Also, an elementary secretary will have to extend her hours to field calls for transportation and kindergarten aides will need to be trained in guided reading.
“Our other aides are trained in guided reading, but not our kindergarten aides. That is something we should change,” said Harpster.
All of the schedule changes will also mean an adjustment for the kindergarten teachers, who will lose planning time.
At a previous board meeting, members asked how the kindergarten teachers feel about the change.
“It’s an obvious change for them,” said Harpster, “but they’ve been excited about it from the get go.”
Harpster also pointed out this is only a temporary transition into full day kindergarten.