Full Day vs. Half Day
For many years, pre-k in my school district was a half-day program. This meant that I had two classes: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Our days were very busy trying to make the most of our 2 ½ hours together. It always felt like we were racing against the clock just to accomplish the bare minimum of our curriculum. The teachers held out hope that some day our district would offer full-day pre-k.
In the fall of 2006 our district decided to pilot a full-day pre-k program and my campus was selected as one of the three to pilot the program. Now, our students are in school from 7:50am-3:10pm and thriving. We have more time to get to know our students' personalities and learning styles better and we teach more effectively. As a result, students adjusted to school more quickly and achieved more quickly.
Not only are children thriving, their families are thriving as a result. Most of our students' parents work--some hold two jobs just to make ends meet. When we taught half-day classes, many parents could not afford licensed daycare and had to hire babysitters to watch their children for the rest of the day. With full day pre-k, most parents can still work full-time and pick up their children after a full day of learning--potentially saving money on child care.
The pilot program was so successful that this academic year, full-day pre-k is offered throughout the district. Our second year has been an even greater success because we now have a better feel for how much our students can learn in the full-day setting. Instead of spending all year focusing on letter identification, we have been able to delve into other areas such as math, in much greater depth than ever before. Our students now have more time to spend learning concepts such as 1:1 correspondence, sorting, patterning, and number recognition. Our full day curricculum includes more phonemic awareness skills, rhyming, syllables, and even reading (yes--you read that correctly--reading!).
Our kindergarten teachers are pleased by how prepared their students are now compared to when our classes were half-day. The parents are thrilled by how much their children are learning in pre-k. It is obvious that full-day pre-k is benefiting both our students and our community by providing a much needed, high-quality educational setting.