Roseville City School District extends kindergarten day

Roseville City School District plans to roll out extended-day kindergarten across all 14 of its elementary campuses next school year, the result of a successful pilot program and changing curriculum standards.

“When you do the math, it’s an additional 54 days of instruction,” said Rich Pierucci, district superintendent.

Currently, kindergartners at the district are in class for 185 minutes each day, either in the morning or afternoon. The expanded program includes 260 minutes of instruction and 40 minutes for lunch.

Extended-day kindergarten is a no-brainer because of the minimal cost associated with the program, officials said. The district does not have to hire more teachers because it currently staffs two in each morning and afternoon kindergarten class. With extended-day kindergarten, each class will have one teacher.

Because half-day kindergarten classes tended to share rooms, the district will need to purchase about four new portables, Pierucci said. Each of the rooms will also require $3,000 worth of instructional materials, he said.

The district started a pilot program last fall at nine schools. For Sargeant Elementary School, the results have been positive midway through the school year: students’ proficiency in English has reached 82 percent, up from 69 percent at the beginning of the school year. Mathematics saw a similar surge, reaching 84 percent.

Teri Seaman, principal at Sargeant, said those gains usually weren’t seen until the end of the school year in June.

“Students have more opportunity to grow socially,” she said. “More time for group interaction, structured play and projects.”

With the adoption of Common Core State Standards, a set of national curriculum guidelines that California is introducing into classrooms, early education has proved pivotal to a student’s development.

Under the new standards, students will spend less time reading literature and more time analyzing nonfiction. Math lessons teach students multiple ways to answer problems and apply skills to real-world situations. Testing based on Common Core is expected to begin next year.

“What teachers are asked to do with students is so much more in-depth,” Seaman said. “A longer day just lends itself to the Common Core curriculum, whether that’s more exploring, discussion, comparing or contrasting.”

With the announcement this month, Roseville joins a growing number of districts in the region offering extended-day programs at some or all locations, including Natomas Unified, Sacramento City Unified, San Juan Unified and Twin Rivers Unified.

Natomas Unified completed a similar test program in 2013-14 before rolling it out to all eight of its elementary schools last fall. “The sooner you get kids learning, the more they’re going to learn,” district spokesman Jim Sanders said.

Elk Grove Unified School District is bucking the trend. Most of the district’s schools do not have space to accommodate an extended-day program, said Bob Roe, director of elementary education.

At Sacramento City Unified, eight schools have extended-day programs out of the 49 schools with kindergarten classes, according to district spokesman Gabe Ross. He said the district wants to give families options.

“Some parents may like to have their kids in after-school programs or at home,” he said.

But for parent Jamei Cales, whose 6-year-old son Branden is enrolled in extended-day kindergarten at Sargeant, the program has been a pleasant surprise.

“He is reading, which is something I wasn’t expecting at this point,” Cales said. “I was assuming it would happen during first grade.”

Selling the idea of a longer school day to 5-year-olds has been another story.

“It was an adjustment to get them used to being at school for five hours,” said Jennifer Danielson, a kindergarten teacher at Sargeant. “We try to break up our day in short increments to give children opportunities to get up and move around.”