Idaho Falls School District 91 plans to offer all-day kindergarten in all its elementary schools beginning this fall.
District officials announced in a Thursday news release that, after “extensive research” over the course of the previous few months, the district would expand all-day kindergarten offerings. The move still must be approved by the district’s board of trustees.
For several months District 91 administrators, elementary school principals and a committee of kindergarten teachers has explored how to expand all-day kindergarten throughout the district. They have identified space in their schools for all-day kindergarten, analyzed staffing and curriculum needs and researched furniture and technology needs, the release said.
The district currently offers all-day kindergarten programs at four elementary schools — A.H. Bush, Dora Erickson, Temple View and Sunnyside. Sunnyside operates its full-day kindergarten program on a tuition-based model, said Margaret Wimborne, the district’s director of Communications and Community Engagement.
Currently, 175 students in District 91 attend all-day kindergarten, Wimborne said. District 91 has 780 total students in kindergarten.
The district would use general fund, K-3 literacy funds, special education funds, title funds, ESSER and federal grants to expand all-day kindergarten districtwide, the release said. District officials also are hopeful that state funding will be available as outlined in Gov. Little’s State of the State address.
In Little’s address Monday, he proposed $47 million for ongoing funding to literacy programs, which would include money for expansion of all-day kindergarten.
According to the Education Commission of the States, Idaho is one of 31 states that doesn’t require students to attend kindergarten. Despite that, most districts and charters in the state do offer all-day kindergarten, even though the state provides no direct funding for it, IdahoEdNews reported.
“Our experience shows all-day kindergarten helps prepare children to be successful in school,” said Superintendent Jim Shank in the release. “All-day kindergarten programs close learning gaps, and give children the academic, social and emotional foundation they need to be confident learners in elementary school.”
In recent years, the number of students entering kindergarten ready to learn in District 91 has declined, the release said. This year, only 31% of the district’s kindergarteners were at grade level on the fall Idaho Reading Indicator, compared to 41% of kindergarteners statewide.
The district’s schools with all-day kindergarten programs, such as Temple View Elementary School, have been successful in closing those learning gaps, the release said. In 2020-21, only 27% of Temple View’s Elementary School’s kindergartners were at grade level on the fall Idaho Reading Indicator, but 74% were at grade level on the spring Reading Indicator, the release said.
The board of trustees will take formal action on all-day kindergarten during its Jan. 25 work session, the release said.