Manassas Journal Messenger | Area schools extend kindergarten

Three Prince William elementary schools will join eight others that offer and extended day kindergarten program during the 2003-2004 school year.

Wayne Mallard, an associate superintendent of schools, told the school board Wednesday night that River Oaks, Dale City, Bel Air and Enterprise elementary schools would add the program designed to identify and teach kindergartners who need extra help learning to read.

Dumfries, Kerrydale, Kilby, Minnieville, Occoquan and Potomac View elementary schools offered the program in the 2002-2003 school year and reported positive results, he said.

A study of the program showed that students who participated achieved a minimum of one year’s growth in reading and mastered the kindergarten Standards of Learning requirements.

Bilingual students increased their fluency in English and parents said they felt more involved and informed, Mallard said.

“Any of the schools that have an extended day kindergarten, as you can see from the data,” Mallard told the school board, “could stand up here and demonstrate the same kind of success that Minnieville has.”

Sherri Berkman, Minnieville Elementary School assistant principal, explained the program to the school board members.

“We felt the need to address the kindergarten students that were coming into our schools and were not ready to go ahead with learning, could not pass the basic skills needed for reading, writing and math,” Berkman said.

Students’ eligibility for the program is determined through the Phonemic Awareness and Literacy Screening, an assessment that helps teachers determine a student’s phonemic awareness, or the ability to decode the language phonetically, said Pam Gaush, an associate superintendent for instruction.

“Some of it is identifying letters, letter sounds, rhyming, those kinds of things. When a child takes the test and they don’t pass at a certain score, they receive intervention throughout the school year,” Gaush said.

Students who are eligible for the program attend regular kindergarten classes and then stay on for further work on their reading skills, Berkman told the school board.

“They would have their regular kindergarten classes,” Berkman explained, “When the group went home at 12 o’clock, these students would go over to the extended day kindergarten teacher.”

Berkman said the students came to the second half of their day in the school cafeteria ready to work.

“We started out with a short rest period. That lasted about two weeks,” Berkman said of the students who weren’t keen on nap time.

“Then they would go on and have direct instruction using basic literacy … reading, writing, listening and speaking,” she said.

School Superintendent Edward L. Kelly said he was confident that schools would adjust, just as Minnieville Elementary School did in using the cafeteria, to help students make progress

“The more successful principals are in their schools, the harder they will work to find that space,” Kelly said the flexibility needed to make a program work in the county’s crowded schools.

The program is funded, as much as 50 percent in some schools, by federal grants, Gaush said.

“Title I is a federal grant program that targets schools of high percentages of poverty. Prince William County has 18 Title I schools. It’s funding that we get from the federal government to provide additional instruction for students that are high poverty students,” Gaush said.

Title I money can be used to pay teachers and buy school supplies, Gaush said.

Under the county’s site-based management plan, principals determine whether to offer the program in their schools, Gaush said.

Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063.

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