by Gilbert parent Janena Williams
Ms. Williams sent the following letter to the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board on May 16, 2013
(GW Note: The Governing Board voted on May 16 to continue free All Day Kindergarten.)
I am writing regarding the controversy in the Gilbert School District over half-day vs. all day Kindergarten. I have been a resident of Gilbert for 10 years and have had three of my four children attend half-day Kindergarten here. My oldest child also attended half-day kindergarten in another state. I have been bothered by a lot of the policies and actions that have taken place over the last few years with the implementation of full-day Kindergarten at elementary schools throughout Gilbert.
My second child attended half day K at Mesquite Elementary and then all day K was started a year or two after that. At my children’s school, they did away with any half-day kindergarten classes after the first year. So, this meant that for my third child I needed to send her to another school within the district that still provided half-day K. This school was Spectrum Elementary that is about 6 miles from me. The district provided a bus for my daughter to take her to and from school each day. This was a full sized bus that picked up only 8 children. This seemed a large cost for the district. In my daughter’s after K class there were only one fourth of the kids that actually lived in Spectrum’s boundaries. Most of us were attending there because we really wanted half-day K.
During that year, I had one child at Mesquite Elementary and one child at Spectrum Elementary which made it very difficult for me to attend events at both schools, spend time in both classrooms, and have cohesion in my home with school activities. It was just not ideal, but for me it was a better alternative than all day Kindergarten.
For my fourth child we had to take even more drastic measures to do half-day Kindergarten. I switched my fourth grader and enrolled my Kindergartener at Neely Elementary. I have been incredibly pleased with Neely and their programs. My kindergartener was reading by early November which amazed me. After having 3 other children go to regular elementary schools, the difference at Neely (which is a back to basics school) was astounding. I don’t know why the district doesn’t implement the programs that Neely uses at all of their schools. Neely has very long waiting lists, wonderful testing scores, and utilized ‘old fashioned’ programs that really work. They teach a phonograms program and utilize the Saxon math programs.
Now to the issue of half-day vs. all-day Kindergarten–my oldest child is graduating from High School this year, having attended half-day K, and is ranked 8th in her class. My second child, who also attended half-day K, is taking all honors classes and is on the Principles Honor Roll. My 4th grader is in ALP Math and receiving A’s in all of her subjects. My Kindergarten son already understands basic multiplication on top of everything else taught in his half-day Kindergarten class. They have not suffered from taking only half-day Kindergarten.
I do not believe that children need all day kindergarten. For those parents and families that desire all-day Kindergarten, I believe that they should pay for the option like they used to before the district implemented all-day K. I feel very strongly that most children at 5 years old should not spend so much time in a structured environment. Children need to play as part of their learning process.
Another big complaint I have is how the district has handled information regarding half-day kindergarten over the last few years. There is no option on the registration forms to select half-day K. If a parents wants to choose half-day K, they have to find out which schools will be offering half-day and then generally go far out of their way to get their child to and from school. As a parent I always felt that my home school was hiding the fact that half-day was offered elsewhere. I have educated many people new to our district about the half-day option because it is not spoken of by anyone in the district.
Another problem is the transportation. Many parents I knew the year my 4th child was at Spectrum did not use the bus because of how long their child was on it. Because of the huge and circuitous route the driver had to take to get the children, the ride to school was over 30 minutes long. The ride home took almost an hour because it included all of the regular stops for the other school children and then the Kindergarteners who lived out of boundaries would be taken home. That ride was far too long for a 5 or 6 year old to do each afternoon. This lengthy bus ride was unacceptable to me so I allowed my daughter to ride the bus to school, but then I picked her up from school and brought her home each day.
I hope this information and my personal point of view is helpful in support of half-day kindergarten returning to all schools in the district.
Thank you, Janena Williams