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Full Day K? Not Today

If Loudoun County wants to implement full-day kindergarten, there are two major stumbling blocks it must overcome — space and staffing.

School administrators estimate that the schools would need to add 85 classrooms and as many teachers. "Instructionally, there’s not a lot of support for full-day kindergarten," said School Board member J. Warren Geurin (Sterling) during an Aug. 8 meeting of the School Board's Curriculum and Instruction Committee.

School Board member Thomas Reed (at large), an advocate for full implementation of the program, estimated it would cost the county $25 million.

At the meeting, Reed said he wants to include the cost of building 85 new classrooms on the bond referendum in November.

"We’re not gonna do it," Geurin said. "We don’t have the 85 classrooms at our hip and it’s just not that popular of an idea."

Sharon Ackerman, assistant superintendent for curriculum, agreed to continue to look explore full implementation of the program, even though Geurin said he doesn’t see it happening.

EVEN THOUGH it doesn’t look good for full-day kindergarten for all Loudoun County students, Ackerman said there are a number of students getting the full-day experience.

Currently, seven schools offer a full-day kindergarten program. Cool Spring, Countryside, Frances Hazel Reid, Legacy, Newton-Lee and Sugarland elementary schools have one full-day kindergarten class each and Sully Elementary School has two classes.

Under a 2002 directive, the School Board plans to add one or two new schools to the program each year. In September, Mountain View Elementary School will start an all-day kindergarten program.

These schools were added to the list because of a higher proportion of "at-risk" children.

Ackerman, defined "at-risk" children as students enrolled in one of three programs, the federally funded Head Start program which assists 3- and 4-year-old children from low-income families, the locally-funded (STEP) program designed to offer services to 3- and 4-year olds from low-income families who are not eligible for Head Start, or the special education early childhood classes.

"The students eligible are a very specific group of students," Ackerman said. "We’re drawing children who, research shows, would benefit most from full-day kindergarten. It is designed so students start on a more even playing field with other students coming into kindergarten."

Additionally, kindergarten students who need English as a Second Language [ESL] class, are in school all day. Students that qualify for language help attend Loudoun’s half-day kindergarten program as well as an ESL class at their home school.

"Statistics show half-day ESL classes at that age vastly improves students’ abilities to acquire English language skills much earlier," Geurin said.