Kenton County schools will switch to all-day kindergarten this fall

FORT WRIGHT, Ky. -- The benefits of all-day kindergarten are too much for Kenton County Schools to argue with, Ft. Wright Elementary School principal Tina Wartman said Tuesday. So it won't.

The school board voted Monday night to institute all-day kindergarten classes across the district, raising a cheer from the principals assembled at the meeting. According to superintendent Henry Webb, the district's longtime half-day kindergarten schedule simply did not give students the instruction they needed to excel.

"In the district, we have about 1,000 kindergarteners who are literally half-year instruction compared to other kids in Kentucky and across the country," he said.

Not anymore. 

Although numerous studies and educational news outlets extol the virtues of all-day kindergarten -- higher long-term achievement and stronger impact on disadvantaged children among them -- a pilot program at Wartman's school clinched it for Kenton County.

Ft. Wright Elementary put a classroom of children from low-income families, those who were receiving special education and those who spoke English as a second language on a full-day schedule in November 2017. 

At the beginning of that pilot period, Wartman said those children were testing in the 25th percentile of all students or below. By the spring, with the increased time spent in a classroom, they were outperforming their half-day counterparts.

"The progress our kids made this year, there's really just no saying no to this initiative," she said.

Michelle Winters, who has children in the district, said the decision wasn't only welcome because of the improved quality of education children will receive -- it's also a boon to working parents who might have struggled to find childcare for the back half of the day.

"They know where their kid is and this is where they're gonna be all day, and they have staff who care about them," she said.

The switch will necessitate a staffing increase, district officials confirmed. They expect to hire about 20 more teachers and 20 instructional assistants in time for the start of the 2018-2019 school year.

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