The April 10 decision by Maxwell officials comes ahead of passage of Assembly Bill 197, as amended, that would mandate kindergarten be “the same number of minutes per school day,” as provided to students in the first grade, beginning in 2022.
“Seventy percent of the state does full day kindergarten,” said Maxwell Superintendent Zach Thurman.
Thurman said making the change this next school year when a new kindergarten teacher comes on would be the best time to begin implementing an extended-day program.
According to AB 197, authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, kindergarten pupils deserve the same opportunity to maximize their growth, development, and success at this critical time in their developmental process as other students.
“Full-day kindergarten provides this opportunity through a longer instructional day that has proven to be successful where it has been implemented,” the bill states.
Weber’s legislation was introduced in January, the same day Gov. Gavin Newsom announced budget plans to provide $750 million to ensure that full-day kindergarten is available in every school district, $2 billion to expand pre-school to all low-income 4-year-olds, and $500 million to expand state-subsidized child care programs.
Thurman said the school board, however, would have the discretion to limit the hours of transitional kindergarteners, even though both grades attend class together.
“Transitional kindergarten is a local decision,” he said.
While 4-year-olds in Maxwell’s transitional kindergarten and 5-year-olds in kindergarten are in the same classroom because of the low number of students enrolled, both Thurman and Elementary School Principal Staci DeWit agreed that a full day schedule would make it “a very long day” for the youngest of students.
The school board does hope the expanded kindergarten program and other potential changes next year will help boost student enrollment, and possibly draw students from other districts.
The district also plans to look at extending Christmas break to three weeks at the request of parents who travel to Mexico for the holidays.
The mandated school year is 180 days, officials said, so choices are limited to starting school earlier in August, ending later in June, or plucking days from other school breaks and holidays, including the weeklong break in February around the federal and state presidential holidays.
School officials said any such change would first have to be negotiated with the unions representing teachers and other staff.
“If there is going to be a change, we need to get the committees back together to discuss it,” Thurman said.
The school board plans to discuss changes to next year’s schedule at their next meeting in May. ■