Next year will usher in a new program at Clemens Crossing Elementary School: daylong kindergarten.
Some 20 kindergartners will get the chance to attend the program as part of a three-year, school-based management pilot project the Board of Education recently approved for the school. It is the first county school to offer a daylong kindergarten program.
"We've been wanting and wanting to try it, and now we have our opportunity," said Principal Jacqueline Lazarewicz, adding that her community had been clamoring for a full-day program for years. "This opportunity allows us to be risk-takers."
Clemens Crossing hopes daylong kindergarten will improve academic performance of low and marginally achieving children -- those from less affluent homes or those foreign-born who speak minimal English. Extended day kindergarten would provide more time to socialize with others and give foreign-born students more chances to speak English and learn the culture.
Students who enroll would engage in enrichment-type activities, such as hands-on social studies and science projects they otherwise would not have tackled in regular half-day kindergarten classes.
"We felt that problems that students face could be identified earlier, and any intervention [that would] occur [could] before students experience failure," Ms. Lazarewicz said.
Students would also hear speakers as well as participate in art activities and music programs. Parents would get more opportunities to go into the school and work with their children in classrooms, Ms. Lazarewicz said.
"It's going to be an exciting change," said kindergarten teacher Mary Pat Robinson, who had one hand full of dirt and marigold seeds one day last week as she helped her class plant flowers in disposable cups.
"There are children who need more attention because their home life may not be as enriched."
Clemens Crossing's school-based management pilot comes with a $4,000 grant, which the school will use toward hiring a part-time kindergarten teacher to help lead the program. The pilot will allow an advisory committee of parents and teachers the chance to manage the school's food service as well as budget allocations and day-to-day concerns.
Six others -- four elementary and two high schools -- also got approval and $4,000 each to pilot school-based management programs. Among the schools are:
* Talbott Springs Elementary School, which has operated on site-based management for four years with a school planning team. Principal Thomas Brown plans to continue with accelerated pace learning for students, a philosophy that reduces the amount of time teachers take to teach lessons.
"Whenever you have a population who enter your school who are already behind, you must accelerate the pace of instruction or those kids will stay behind forever," he said.
* Centennial Lane Elementary School, where Principal Friedel Warner wants parents to work more with staff on conflict resolution, decision-making and communication.
* Pointers Run Elementary School, where parents, staff and administrators would decide school scheduling, curricular alternatives and new programs, among other initiatives.
* Waterloo Elementary School, where a team of community members, teachers, assistants and other school employees would make decisions regarding the school's budget, instruction, operations and personnel. The school requested a waiver to allow Regional Early Childhood Center therapists to make home visits.
Howard and Mt. Hebron high schools plan to work on staff development and alternate scheduling.