McKinley Elementary School has extended the kindergarten day this year in a pilot program designed to determine whether the longer session has a positive impact on learning and socialization.
The school is the only one in the Burlingame School District participating in the program, which has added approximately half an hour of class time for all 46 kindergartners, Principal Paula Valerio said.
School started districtwide Tuesday.
Superintendent Sonny Da Marto recommended the program to the district board of trustees in February after conducting research into the possibility of reducing class sizes and the benefits of extended days. The longer days allow for more small-group time during the day, he said.
Kindergarten was long seen as a way for children to prepare socially for school, rather than academically. But with the many new academic demands placed on students in elementary school, including standardized tests like the Academic Performance Index, students can get shortchanged because there aren’t enough hours in the day for both social and academic growth, Da Marto said.
The two kindergarten classes have 22 and 24 students, repectively. "Early birds" start at 8:20 a.m. and continue to noon. "Late birds" come in at 10:30 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m. Both the late birds and early birds are split into smaller groups of approximately 12 students each for a longer period of the day under the new program, giving each child more face time with their teacher, Valerio said.
Teachers will perform some pre-testing to determine the initial level of the kindergartners’ academic skills, and then will compare those results to scores from the end of the year. Teachers will also observe their students to assess whether they came away from kindergarten as socially adjusted as they should be.
PTA co-president and kindergarten parent Debbie Heffernan said she is in full support of the extended day, and hopes it will be expanded to other district schools.
"I feel that children at this age need more face time in school for socialization, academics and structure," Heffernan said, noting that her older children, also at McKinley Elementary, could have benefited from the extra time.