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School Board Considers Full-Day Kindergarten
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Walking in the footsteps of districts in the surrounding area, Oakdale Joint Unified School District has opened the discussion for full-day Kindergarten, starting with the 2024-2025 school year.

Assistant Superintendent Gillian Wegener presented the plan to the Board of Trustees on Monday, Aug. 14 at the regularly scheduled school board meeting, detailing the proposed change.

Expanding the current Kindergarten program from half-day to full-day would increase the Kinder day from three to 5.5 hours and would necessitate the hiring of more teacher’s aides, which would cost the district $296,000 per year.

According to Wegener’s presentation, full-day Kinder increases long-term student achievement, especially for low-income and marginalized groups, improves students’ social and emotional skills, provides additional time for developmental play with less rushed teaching and learning, reduces retention and remediation rates, and results in higher self-esteem and independence as well as encourages greater creativity for the children.

Downsides include studies that show half-day Kinder is a better match for a 5-year-old’s attention span.

However, Wegener pointed out, there is no evidence to show that students in full-day Kinder are unduly fatigued or stressed, saying, “Once they get used to being in full-day K, they are in the swing of things, and they are ready to go.”

Additionally, full-day Kinder would allow for regular music and library time as well as mitigate declining enrollment.

Wegener added, “I feel very comfortable moving forward with full-day K … that we’ll be able to work with all the children who come to us.”

Currently, there are 15 Kindergarten teachers in 14 classrooms. With the new schedule, there will be 15 teachers in 15 classrooms with an additional classroom being added to Fair Oaks Elementary.

Oakdale Joint Unified School District Superintendent Larry Mendonca praised the district’s previous forethought saying, “Due to some good prudent planning along the way, we aren’t going to be impacted tremendously with facilities. That’s a huge hurdle for other districts that’s really giving them a difficult time to implement this program. The fact that that we already have the facilities due to good prudent planning along the way, we’re in a very advantageous position.”

One parent with young children raised the concern about class size, implementation, and how much support the teachers will have.

Board President Tina Shatswell responded, “I’m extremely confident our Kindergarten teachers are going to be able to deliver a wonderful product in a full day.”

No action was taken but a summary report and request for approval will be presented at the Sept. 11 board meeting regarding this discussion item.


Other District News

Kicking off the meeting in public comment, several community members spoke on behalf of an OJUSD Ag teacher currently on leave pending an investigation, sharing positive experiences they’d had with the teacher.

Student board member Grace Miller was officially installed with the oath of office.

The board heard a presentation on the current state of the OJUSD programs at the elementary and junior high sites. The report covered the requirements of the two funding sources (Expanded Learning Opportunities Program and the ASES grant. The participation criteria and enrollment procedures were clarified as well as the waitlist considerations.