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Full-day Kindergarten is a Success

December marks the end of the first trimester of Penn-Delco School District’s newly launched full-day kindergarten program supporting 212 new students in four elementary schools in the Aston, Brookhaven, and Parkside communities.   

As the pandemic waned, Penn-Delco administrators, parents, and board members recognized the value of exploring the expansion of kindergarten to meet the needs of families not realized in a half-day model.   

For parents looking for a robust program for their child, it didn’t matter whether Penn-Delco School District qualified for grants and additional funding to cover the cost of a full-day kindergarten program; they just knew it had to be a priority. 

In a 2015 National Education Association (NEA) Policy Brief in support of full-day kindergarten, the NEA concluded that “full-day kindergarten not only boosts students’ academic achievement, it also strengthens their social emotional skills. . . (and) offers benefits to teachers and parents—teachers have more time to work with and get to know students, and parents have access to better learning and care for their children.”  

Much research referenced in the brief concurs: compared to half-day kindergarten, full-day kindergarten leads to greater short-term and long-term gains.  In an age where so many children have fallen behind, full-day kindergarten would likely benefit Penn-Delco’s youngest students. 

Buoyed by research and community interest, the administration was tasked to determine how Penn-Delco could achieve this goal. 

“The district made some wise strategic decisions around the financial impact of full day K that began a few years ago,” explained Dr. George Steinhoff, Superintendent of Schools at Penn-Delco. 

“On a tactical level, the administrators simply put their heads together as a team focused on making this a reality.  They spent time during the last half of 2022 visiting other full-day Kindergarten districts and making sure we would be set to go.” 

There were many considerations, including the cost of additional kindergarten teachers and staff for expressive arts and special education.  Classroom space was also a concern.  But “no wasn’t an option,” noted Dr. Steinhoff.   

As a result of the combined effort by multiple administrators, the Board of School Directors was able to pass a resolution in February of 2023 to launch a full-day program in September-- within the existing budget.  

So far, the reviews have been stellar.  Parents, principals, and students alike, are enjoying the addition of their youngest students in a full-day format.   Dr. Danielle Murray, Supervisor of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction, reports the kindergarten teaching team continues to share positive feedback, including a new schedule that provides flexibility and more time to address rigorous state standards.  Teachers, she notes, are seeing academic gains already. 

“The transition from half-day to full-day kindergarten allows us to not only impact students’ academic achievement, but also strengthen their social emotional skills,” she explains.  

“Students are able to socialize during lunch and participate in related arts classes that include physical education, art, music, and technology—all of which have made the students more comfortable in their school buildings.  Students are actively engaged throughout their school day, having fun while learning.” 

The increase in time also allows for students to receive enrichment and support services, while the math, literacy, and language skills will continue to be enhanced through academic and social opportunities now being provided to Penn-Delco kindergarten students.  

“We look forward to the gains we are sure to see in school socialization and strong foundational skills,” said Dr. Murray.  “The social, emotional, and academic gains from kindergarten will continue to positively impact students’ growth for years to come.” 

Elementary principals are already anticipating the benefits for their students with full-day kindergarten.  Tara Young, Principal at Parkside Elementary, believes the benefits will show up in the transition from kindergarten to first grade. 

"Because half-day kindergarten only required our youngest students to be attentive and focused for 2.5 hours, there was still quite a bit of school-readiness that was required in first grade. . .to be full-day learners," she explained.  

"Since those skills are now being cultivated in kindergarten, I see our students benefitting from a longer instructional day in kindergarten, eliminating the need for extensive focus on these skills in first grade.  Teachers will be able to move on to academically rigorous content more quickly.  I expect to see a time and maturity benefit next year for first graders."

Pennell Principal Christa Palladino agrees.

"Students in first grade next year will have a full-year of Penn-Delco curriculum and strong Penn-Delco support," she observes.

" I am confident that our students will be more ready for first grade in both reading and math as well as in their social development."

Penn-Delco saw a 15% increase in enrollment in kindergarten this school year, reflecting the need for families to have a full-day option.  While transportation is currently not provided, Penn-Delco continues to explore solutions that would also welcome its youngest students on their school buses, making the transition into the elementary school community complete.   

For now, parents, teachers and administrators will work closely to ensure that full-day kindergarten benefits these new students.  Dr. Murray is greatly pleased: 

“Kindergarten students have adjusted very well to the full-day format,” she said.  “They are fully engaged in exploring the learning activities provided for them throughout the academic day.” 

Dr. Steinhoff, too, is excited about this new chapter at Penn-Delco School District. 

“It has exceeded my expectations so far.  The fact that we have so many really talented teachers and support staff working with our kindergarten students has made the transition go smoothly.  It has been wonderful to observe!”