CAPE ELIZABETH – For the first time, every kindergartner at Pond Cove Elementary School in Cape Elizabeth will be attending school for a full day this fall.

After a positive run with the pilot program last school year, and with the school budget referendum passing by a wide margin in June, which included a proposal for all-day kindergarten, the school department decided to fully implement the program beginning in September, said Superintendent Meredith Nadeau.

“The School Board heard a report on the pilot back in December and indicated at that time that it wished to pursue full-day kindergarten in its budget proposal for the 2014-15 school year,” Nadeau said.

The budget also included hiring two additional kindergarten teachers and a “modest renovation” to the kindergarten wing of the school, as well as new classroom furniture, equipment and technology, according to Nadeau.

Based on enrollment history, Pond Cove will have six full-time kindergarten teachers, and each classroom will contain about 18 students. According to Pond Cove Elementary School Principal Kelly Hasson on Monday, 100 students were enrolled in the 2014-2015 full-day kindergarten program.

Nadeau said this is the first time a full-day kindergarten program will be offered in Cape Elizabeth. Launching the pilot program during the 2013-2014 school year gave Pond Cove Elementary staff an idea of how the program would operate.

“We wanted to make sure that it would be a good fit for the community,” Nadeau said.

One reason for expanding to a full day of school for kindergarten students, Nadeau said, is the early positive impact it will have on future student performance.

There is a history of students entering first grade at Pond Cove Elementary School after spending a year in full-day kindergarten programs outside of the Cape Elizabeth school district, she said, which can cause a differentiation in instruction and learning gaps among students.

About 10 years ago, when renovations were under way at the school, the school department discussed possibly implementing an all-day kindergarten program, Nadeau said. Because more space would be needed to accommodate students, the board decided to nix the idea. At the time, Pond Cove’s half-day kindergarten program was at “maximum enrollment.”

This summer, the school converted existing space in the kindergarten wing into two additional classrooms, Nadeau said.

Three kindergarten teachers – Kate Atkinson, Danielle Hessert and Amanda Marsden – will be joining Pond Cove Elementary School this year. One of them will be replacing a longtime kindergarten teacher, Linda Paul, who is retiring after about 20 years.

Hasson said Cape Elizabeth was one of a few districts in Maine that had yet to offer an all-day kindergarten program, but during the last few years the community has expressed more interest in it. One benefit of offering all-day kindergarten is that it extends time for student learning and social interactions, Hasson said.

With only a half-day program, time for learning is limited, she said. In addition, because of the short timeframe, students in the half-day program did not have access to art, music, physical education, the computer lab or the library. Now students will have the full kindergarten experience.

The school offered two all-day kindergarten sessions during its pilot program, Hasson said, and both teachers who taught the programs “couldn’t say enough” about the benefits of children having more time to learn and interact with other students, she said.

During the first week of September, kindergartners will meet with their teachers one on one, said Hasson, and teachers will complete informal student assessments.

“Sometimes the impression is that it’s like a watered-down first grade, and it’s not,” Hasson said of all-day kindergarten. “It’s a really well-balanced early childhood program, which I think is one of the most important years of a student’s life. We want to motivate and energize them for learning at the youngest age possible.”

This story was updated to correct the start times for Scarborough public school students.


A CLOSER LOOK

Area students are back to school in coming weeks.

South Portland: Public school students in grades 1-9 start Tuesday, Sept. 2. Students in kindergarten and grades 10-12 start Wednesday, Sept. 3.

Scarborough: Public school students in grade 9 and grades K-2 (by appointment only) report Aug. 27. Students in grades K-2 and 6-12 and report Thursday, Aug. 28. Students in grades 3-5 report Tuesday, Sept. 2.

Cape Elizabeth: Students in grades 1-12 start Tuesday, Sept. 2. (Grade 9 starts at 7:55 a.m.; grades 10-12 start at 10:55 a.m.) Kindergarten starts Monday, Sept. 8



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