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Posted on Tue, Feb 8, 2011 : 8:10 a.m.

Dexter school board discusses proposed switch to all-day kindergarten

By Lisa Carolin

With kindergarten registration just two months away, the Dexter school board Monday night discussed a proposal to switch to an all-day program, eventually deciding to put off any decision until after its next meeting.

Dexter Community Schools currently offers half-day kindergarten along with a few other options that include after-school care.

Cornerstone Elementary School (K-2) Principal Tim Autier and Bates Elementary School (K-2) Principal Craig McCalla advocated making the change to all day kindergarten at Monday's meeting.

"In a half day program, there are 40 minutes of academic time," said McCalla. "In an all-day kindergarten program, there are two hour-long academic blocks."

"We think the all day program would be a draw for Dexter," said Autier.

The school board considered the idea in 2008, and a subsequent survey indicated that two-thirds of Dexter parents would support all-day kindergarten and one-third would prefer a half- day program. One option would be for the district to offer both, but that drew concerns from school board members Monday night.

"How do we take kids with two different experiences into first grade?" asked board member Dick Lundy. "We may need to have additional resources in first grade to integrate kids."

"I think all-day kindergarten is the right thing to do, but to ask us to make a decision on something this significant by the next board meeting would give me concern," said board President Larry Cobler. The board's next meeting is Monday, Feb. 21.

Thumbnail image for Mary_Marshall.jpg

Mary Marshall

McCalla and Autier said they would be willing to postpone kindergarten information night, which is currently scheduled for Feb. 15 and reschedule it for sometime in March. Kindergarten registration is the second week in April in Dexter.

How an all-day program is developed will be critically important to its success, Superintendent Mary Marshall told the board. "The full day program is 100 percent more time in kindergarten, and the increased adacemic time is 30 percent," she said.

Lundy estimated that implementing all-day kindergarten in Dexter, which would include hiring additional teachers and making transportation changes, would cost between $500,000 and $600,000. Autier and McCalla said existing buildings have enough space to accommodate all-day kindergarten without any renovation.

Board member Julie Schumaker recommended not making a decision at the next board meeting and spending the next few weeks getting information about the proposed all-day kindergarten program out to the community. The board agreed.

Lisa Carolin is a freelance reporter for For more Dexter stories, visit our Dexter page.



Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 11:23 p.m.

In order to successfully transition our students from Dexter Comm. Ed. Preschools to an all day Kindergarten program, we need to make the preschool program more than what it is: an unorganized mess that does nothing to provide structure or prepare our kids academically for Kindergarten. I would beg the schools to reconsider making this change until Fall 2012. A decision like this requires so much planning and preparation. We as parents do not want to just throw our kids in here with little planning on the part of the schools. Ultimately, the children will pay the consequences of this. Wait another year, restructure both preschool and kindergarten, then make a solid, well-planned transition that has our children's best interests at heart.


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 3:23 p.m.

This is an important step in the right direction. Dexter Schools appear to have a poor appreciation for the importance of early-childhood education. The preschool offered by the district is described as being glorified childcare, with little, if any, academic content. This year, the Board completely eliminated funding for First Steps, the only program it has for general early childhood education, leaving the participants to cobble together sufficient funding through user fees and fund-raising events, if they can. All the data we have show that early childhood education is absolutely vital to helping our children maximize their potential as adults. We must be doing all we can in this area, not offering minimum programs or de-funding programs. Dexter likes to put itself forward as having great schools. Efforts need to be made for all students at all age levels to ensure that this is, in fact, the case. The article appears to have a contradiction. Bates Elementary School Principal Craig McCalla states that the increase in academic content will be from 40 minutes to 120 minutes, a 200% increase. The Superintendent is quoted as saying that the increase is only 30%. Could inform us as to the reality of the change?


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 1:14 a.m.

I've taught Kindergarten for several years and while I do agree that there are benefits to this program, I feel that we need to look at this from a child development standpoint. Children develop at different rates. Some (I would argue most) 4 year old's are not ready for all day Kindergarten. It would likely serve as a pre-kindergarten for those children, teaching them how to be in school (rules, routines, procedures and social protocols) rather than breaking a large amount of academic ground. While giving parents the option of "if you don't think your child is ready for all day Kindergarten" sounds ideal, it is my experience that many families jump at these programs whether or not their child is developmentally prepared to sustain an 8 hour day because it's free and it enables them to work during the day. Particularly since Michigan's cut-off birthday is December 1st, I am a strong advocate for a Young Five's program (full day or not) with realistic academic expectations and time to allow the children to develop in the areas which will prepare them for the academic and cognitive challenges of Kindergarten-which seems to be the new first grade.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, Feb 10, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

I live in Ann Arbor, which has a mix of mostly half-day, some full-day and the option of a tuition-based "extended day option" (taught by the classroom teacher) at all buildings. I'm torn on this issue myself, since both my kids did half day. But it's true that a lot of what used to be the first grade curriculum has been pushed down to kindergarten, whether it's taught across a half day or a full day. Kindergarten class schedules around here are simply jam-packed trying to fit everything in. Going to full day would not (I believe) change the material which has to be covered, but it would give students and teachers time to cover it at less of a breathless pace. And maybe to bring back in some of the fun, exploratory learning experiences which have been squeezed out over the last few years.

Jonny Spirit

Tue, Feb 8, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

@ S and mrd, please do some research from other states. Michigan is one of the only states that does not have all day Kindergarten. We are falling behind and falling fast. You have to look into everything. Yes, 5 year old children are ready for all day kindergarten! It has been proven in almost every school around here. This is the best decision for Dexter and the best for your child. Other schools make you pay for it, so feel grateful it is FREE and not $4,000 a year. Congrats Dexter, keep moving forward and not backwards like some districts.


Tue, Feb 8, 2011 : 7:16 p.m.

Jonny, It has little to do with whether they are "ready for it". I know what they do elsewhere. I know what they do in Dexter. No one solution fits all. An ease-in transition plan with choices allows people to make the right decision for families. Did you really mean to write "grateful and free?"


Tue, Feb 8, 2011 : 2:59 p.m.

"How do we take kids with two different experiences into first grade?" asked board member Dick Lundy. "We may need to have additional resources in first grade to integrate kids." Mr. Lundy: every learner has a different experience inside and outside of school. If you or the administrators or teachers are only considering two(2), you need to adjust the focus. The pace of our childrens ascent through our schools always needs to reflect the melding of their individual and shared experiences. Keep in mind that if a significant change such as this were to occur, with very little lead time, a reasonable expectation would be that EVERYONE would need time to adjust, COMFORTABLY. That is what we want out of our educational environment. Lets always seek improvement, realizing that independent free people need options. How about additional resources in kindergarten?


Tue, Feb 8, 2011 : 2:51 p.m.

I would like to see some data on how many 4 year olds stay home verses being in some type of daycare. I believe there is a significantly higher number of 4 year olds in some kind of day care than not. And even if that daycare happens to be half a day (which I doubt) most would be ready for all day when they are 5. There will always be those that are not ready at 5 and many of those would still not be ready at 6. Give parents the option. If you don't think your child is ready at 5 keep them hpome and start kindergarten at 6. Even some of the parents that say their child is not ready have their child enrolled in so many activities during the week that the child is seldom home anyway! All districts need to move into the 21st century in this regard. Most families have two working parents and half day kindergarten creates a real burden for them

Shelly Vrsek

Tue, Feb 8, 2011 : 1:48 p.m.

Yes, the principals names are not correct. I am in total support of this idea. The State of Michigan has been trying to move in the direction because many educators feel that students will have more opportunity to integrate playing and movement into learning. A full day of Kindergarten does not mean that kids will be sitting at a desk for the full day. It means they will have more opportunities to integrate what they are learning, using age appropriate teaching techniques. Forcing kids to learn quickly and chaotically isn't the greatest solution for every learner, but it is what we are doing now. I want our school district to offer programs that are competitive with other districts, and I want my children to have the same opportunities that other districts have. I don't want our district or my children left behind.


Tue, Feb 8, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

First of all, you have the principals at the wrong schools. Switch them. Secondly, not all children at the age of five are ready for full day Kindergarten. Ones that are raised at home instead of by a daycare are not used to that much intensity, nor should they have to be. Let's quit trying to make young children live as adults.


Tue, Feb 8, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

First of all, I'm guessing that people who have their children in daycare would take issue with the idea that their children are being raised by the daycare. Secondly, it's a huge generalization to say that children raised at home are not used to that much intensity. My twin sons were not in daycare. For preschool, they went to a 3-day Co-Op preschool (3 half-days). But by the time they were five, they were very ready for a full-day kindergarten, and they flourished there. They went to an extended day play-based kindergarten in Ann Arbor, and they had a wonderful experience. I didn't view it as trying to make them adults at all - the play-based nature of the kindergarten provided a wonderful transition to a more structured environment without overloading them with academic expectations. It's certainly true that not all 5 year-olds may be ready for a full day of school. But it is an overstatement to indicate that only those who have been in daycare would be.