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Posted on Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 10:15 a.m.

Parents, children embrace all-day kindergarten on first day of school in Ann Arbor

By Danielle Arndt


Parents and children enter Abbot Elementary, at 2670 Sequoia Parkway in Ann Arbor, on the first day of school Tuesday.

Danielle Arndt |

Let kids be kids is the argument frequently made against all-day kindergarten. But in Ann Arbor Tuesday morning, as pupils bounded off buses and dragged their parents down hallways, waving and giving the thumbs up to their friends, it would be hard to say kindergartners were being anything but kids.

The excitement was palpable among the incoming kindergarten students at Ann Arbor’s Abbot Elementary School Tuesday. Parents held their children’s hands as they walked to the kindergarten corridor of the school.

For the first day, parents could help hang their child’s backpack on a peg outside the classroom and follow kindergartners into their classrooms to give one last kiss or a hug or an encouraging smile.

Often parents, not their children, were the ones needing the encouraging smile. Parent Molly Mason said that's par for the course.


Molly Mason, left, gives her son Elliott one last encouraging pep talk Tuesday before he starts his first day of kindergarten. Elliot, center, returns the favor with an encouraging smile.

Danielle Arndt |

“It’s a very traumatic moment for the moms,” said Mason, whose two youngest sons started all-day kindergarten Tuesday. “The kids do fine. It’s the moms that have a hard time.”

While all-day kindergarten is new throughout Ann Arbor Public Schools this fall and in many other districts in Washtenaw County, the switch from the more traditional half-day program did not seem to have a huge impact on families, school officials said. It was just another first day of school, they said.

A new law forced Michigan school districts to make a choice between providing all-day kindergarten or receiving only half of their per-pupil foundation allowance for all students enrolled in half-day programs at the start of the 2012-13 academic year.

The state mandate would have caused AAPS to lose $3.5 million in state aid, if district officials had not decided to switch to the full-day program.

Implementing all-day kindergarten cost AAPS a total of about $1.5 million.

Mason said the switch to all-day kindergarten was the reason she enrolled her two sons, Henry and Elliott, at Abbot Elementary.

“It’s the reason we came back,” Mason said.


Colin Turner, 9; Lauren Macneil, 7; and Liam Macneil, 5, wait for the bus Tuesday outside the Macneils' home on the first day of school.

Danielle Arndt |

Last year, Mason and her husband drove 15 miles to send their children to a Montessori program because it offered the full-day option. Prior to the state’s funding stipulation, Ann Arbor offered all-day kindergarten only at Allen, Bryant, Carpenter, Mitchell, Pittsfield and Northside elementary schools.

Mason said especially for boys, a structured schedule and curriculum is incredibly important for their future academic success and endurance. She said the all-day structure will better prepare them for future years, when more and more curriculum is added at each grade level. She also said the Montessori kindergarten program her sons attended last year was too self-directed, so she decided to enroll them in a second year of kindergarten in Ann Arbor.

Emily and Mike Macneil loaded their three children on the bus Tuesday morning outside of their home on Hensley Drive. Son Liam, 5, was starting kindergarten and was going to school with big sister Lauren, 7, at Abbot.

Emily Macneil said Liam isn’t typically shy but that he would act shy for the first day.

Because the Macneils have had two children go through kindergarten already and participate in the extended-day option at Abbot, the couple was excited and happy when the district started offering a true all-day kindergarten program. The extended-day program provided a half day of instruction and a half day of activities in a classroom environment.

“It’s old hat for us, I guess,” she said, adding most of their friends also are pleased with the switch or are putting their oldest children in kindergarten and “don’t know any different anyway.”

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 9:27 p.m.

Apart from the unnamed Montessori program, among the private, Parochial, religious, and charter schools, which of them have half-day and/or full-day options? What advantages or disadvantages to half v. full-day do they see? If any of them have offered full-day K for some time, do they see a 'trickle-up' in academic performance or socialization, or do they not see a measured difference?

L Lindsey

Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

Disagree with the headline. Absolutely NOT embraced by many of us who are against all day kindergarten. The article confirms this is all about money and NOT about children and their needs. At very least a half-day option should be offer for the students who are not ready to spend all day in school.


Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 1:19 a.m.

My experience tells me that children that young are better off with half day. I feel that the decision to all day is more to help parents with babysitting.


Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

All day kindergarten was mandated by the state, so no real discussion was even necessary - the school district cannot afford to lose the funding. But that doesn't mean that it's the best solution. I think it's terrific for lots of kids, maybe even most, but I do think that it will result in even more red-shirting than we already have, which makes for odd classrooms with some kids more than a year older than others. I also know of several parents who decided on a private school just to get a half day option. Kindergarten used to be an introduction to school; now it's first grade, with the expectation that kids read by the end of the year. But will we see any long term benefit??


Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : midnight

Take a look at Great Britain. They start potty training them at age 2 and send em to all day schooling at age 3. I guess this is where the benefits come from in that US is 25 in world standing and GB is top 10? I guess I know where the long term benefits come into play. As for stressed out moms sending theirs to all day K? I could not wait for this opportunity. We went charter just for all day K.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.

".... children embrace all-day kindergarten...." I'm not sure a kindergartner is at all capable of such a "big picture" assessment.


Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 5:44 p.m.

"She also said the Montessori kindergarten program her sons attended last year was too self-directed, so she decided to enroll them in a second year of kindergarten in Ann Arbor." Another form of redshirting (along with an excuse to do it)?


Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 1:39 a.m.

I don't think parents need an excuse to redshirt their kids. The research clearly shows that kids do better if they wait a bit longer to go to school. What's the rush?


Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 11:23 p.m.

Thank-you. I thought I was the only one that felt this way.


Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

"The state mandate would have caused AAPS to lose $3.5 million in state aid, if district officials had not decided to switch to the full-day program. Implementing all-day kindergarten cost AAPS a total of about $1.5 million." doesn't that actually mean that now they're coffers are fatter? I honestly can't see any legitimate negatives to full day kindergarten.


Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 4 p.m.

The article fails to mention that the extended-day option was extremely expensive for parents. I never thought it was fair that AAPS offered full-day kindergarten at 6 of its elementary schools but charged parents dearly for the extended-day kindergarten option at the remaining elementary schools.

Susie Q

Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

It may not have been fair to only offer full-day at those six schools; but I suspect that funding (as usual) played a major role in the decision-making process. I am quite sure that those six schools receive extra funding from Title One, which would off-set the increased cost to the district. If they offered it at non-Title One schools, then it would have to be paid for from the general fund.