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02/12/2010

All Day Kindergarten Is Coming - Are You Ready?

J0341505Last week, I spent an hour or so at my children's parochial school helping with our Open House event.  Among the several differences and benefits highlighted in our recruitment materials, the fact that our school already offers all day kindergarten was featured prominently.

I've not paid much attention to the all day kindergarten hullabaloo here in Ohio; while I believe firmly in the importance of thriving public education systems (I'm a product of one myself), we've opted to send our children to Catholic schools for a multitude of reasons.  The net effect of this is that I often have blinders on as to what's going on in the local school districts that surround us, including Governor Strickland's mandate that all school districts in Ohio offer all day kindergarten beginning fall 2011. (Read the bill in front of our Ohio state senators right here.)

While local school districts that are faced with a lack of available space for housing all day kindergarten classes or insufficient funding to cover staff costs will still be able to apply for a waiver to delay offering all day kindergarten by one year, the writing is on the wall:

All day kindergarten is coming soon to a public school near you.

At our small parish school, all day kindergarten has worked well; my own son was in the first class of all day kindergartners last year.  But I was fortunate that first year to have the choice of all day or half day; because it was the first year all day kindergarten was offered, our school offered the choice to make the transition easier. 

I had my concerns about how well my son would do in an all day kindergarten, but he surprised me by truly enjoying it.  I always kept the option of putting him in the half day program in the back of my mind. 

It's likely, though, that the option of going half day rather than all day won't be available to most parents in Ohio public schools.  Issues of space, staffing, and busing will make it difficult for school districts to offer both options to families.  Even at our small parish school, the half day option is no longer available; when the new school year began in Fall of 2009, our school offered all day kindergarten only.

For many single parents and dual income parents, all day kindergarten will finally solve the half day daycare problem.  But for other parents (including some of the single parents and dual income parents as well), all day kindergarten may feel like too much, too soon.   Without the financial means to find a private school alternative, or lacking a half day kindergarten alternative in their town or municipality, many parents may face an uphill battle at their local school in trying to find some sort of compromise.

The final question is this: How will this legislation effect your family - positively or negatively? 

Weigh in with your comments here and remember to contact your state senator to let them know where you stand as well.  Get your voices heard!

When she's not trying her best to keep her family on an even keel, Marianne shares money saving tips and her love of Krogering at The New Frugal Mom and her thoughts about life and writing and Writer-Mommy.

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