Schools get a jump on all-day kindergarten

With or without extra state funds, South Sound districts commit to early-childhood education

Staff writerSeptember 1, 2013 

Fresh from mid-morning recess in the August sunshine, a group of 17 pre-kindergarten students needed a gentle reminder that it was time to focus.

“Give yourself a hug,” teacher Nancy Laush told them as they gathered inside their classroom at Elk Ridge Elementary School in Buckley.

She continued the game, infusing it with body-awareness learning: “Put your hand on your chin. Now put your hand on your elbow. Do you remember where your elbow is?”

Students would also learn to count using a calendar, sit “criss-cross applesauce” for story time, write their names at the top of a worksheet, draw self-portraits, complete an exercise that combines art and number recognition, and more.

And that was all before they were dismissed at noon.

It’s part of Kinder Kamp, a three-week summer program aimed at children who need an extra academic boost before they start kindergarten this year in the White River School District. The program was free for families whose students were recommended to participate, based on screenings completed when they registered for kindergarten.

Several school districts around the state, including Federal Way, offered similar programs this summer.

Statewide, public schools are focusing the spotlight on kindergarten and early learning. Some of the renewed attention stems from a new $50 million cash infusion from the Legislature, which will roughly double the number of students enrolled in state-funded full-day kindergarten this year.

Call it a down payment on a much bigger goal: to provide funding for full-day kindergarten for all Washington students by the start of the 2017-18 school year.

The new state money is one result of the 2012 state Supreme Court decision, known as the McCleary case. It ordered the state to meet its constitutional duty by increasing funding for basic education. The 2013 Legislature responded by allocating about $1 billion more for basic education for the next two years.

The kindergarten push is also part of a long-term realization among educators that starting kids off right can pay big dividends down the road.


While some students arrive on the first day already reading and writing, others don’t know how to hold a pencil or scissors. The disparities may reflect what students have learned at home or in preschool, or they may be due to developmental differences.

Some research has shown that the benefits of full-day kindergarten include a smoother transition to first grade, faster acquisition of early literacy skills and fewer behavioral issues.

“What we’ve found through research over the years is that the earliest intervention is the strongest,” said Elk Ridge Principal Christi Ellenwood. “Pre-teaching is more effective than providing intervention after the fact.”

That thinking helped spark not only Kinder Kamp, but a local decision to offer free full-day kindergarten for all students in the White River District with the start of the 2013-14 school year.

The district made the move, even though it didn’t get a chunk of the additional $50 million from the state.

The new state dollars are flowing first to schools with the highest percentage of low-income students.

White River officials estimate the cost to their district this year at roughly $280,000.

“We are implementing now because it’s best for kids and the right thing to do,” White River Superintendent Janel Keating said. “It’s time to say ‘this is good for all kids.’ We have to figure out how to afford this.”

The Eatonville School District also decided to offer all-day kindergarten at all its schools this year even though it also received no new state funding for a full-day program.

Eatonville Superintendent Krestin Bahr, in a letter to Eatonville families, said the district wanted to offer all of its students “equal access and opportunity.” The district estimates its cost at $150,000.


For years, kindergarten has been a mixed bag throughout the state, with programs varying from district to district. Some offered full-day kindergarten only in high-poverty schools, while others provided traditional half-day kindergarten for most students and an option for full-day programs to parents willing to pay tuition for the added time.

The new state dollars will let several school districts in Pierce County expand full-day kindergarten offerings.

Puyallup, which eliminated all-day kindergarten due to budget problems in 2009, will receive new state money this year for free full-day kindergarten at Firgrove, Spinning and Stewart elementary schools.

Tacoma Public Schools has offered universal full-day kindergarten since 2008, using a combination of local, state and federal dollars. But it will also gain about $885,000 in new state money for the program this year. That will free local levy dollars for other things.

Other Pierce County school districts that will offer full-day kindergarten this year include Bethel, Clover Park and Sumner.

The additional state money means the number of Washington students in state-funded full-day kindergarten will jump from more than 17,000 to more than 35,000 — nearly 44 percent of all the state’s kindergartners.

Educators hope they’ll see the kind of results that teachers and parents observed at this summer’s Kinder Kamp in Buckley.

Kristen Storm said her daughter Jaslynn gained new skills there, both academic and social. She said Jaslynn is excited about her first day of school at Elk Ridge.

“She already seems more confident in her recognition of letters,”

Storm said. “She was a little shy at first, but this has helped her social skills. She comes home singing songs.”

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635


Here are some details about the 2013-14 school year in Pierce County school districts.


Estimated student population: 17,444.

School starts: Wednesday.

School ends: June 16.

Calendar: online at

Late start days: Two-hour late start: Sept. 18, Oct. 16, Nov. 13, Jan. 8, Feb. 5, March 5, May 7, June 4.

What’s new: Jeff Johnson, principal of Challenger High School; new middle school science kits for six study topics.

Change in school start and end times: Shining Mountain and Spanaway elementary schools: 8:50 a.m. start, 2:55 p.m. end. North Star and Thompson elementary schools: 9:30 a.m. start, 3:35 p.m. end.

General operating budget: $183 million.

New state dollars this year: $13.8 million.

Number of teachers: 1,129 certificated staff members.

Phone: 253-683-6000.

Stay connected:,, @BethelSD on Twitter


Estimated student population: 183.

School started: Aug. 28.

School ends: June 10.

Calendar: online at

What’s new: New computers in the computer lab, new technology programs (Study Island and Reading Eggs), first phase of new school playground complete.

General operating budget: $2.1 million.

New state dollars this year: $70,000.

Number of teachers: 12 classroom teachers.

Phone: 360-829-0121.

Stay connected:


Estimated student population: 12,200.

School starts: Tuesday.

School ends: June 13.

Calendar: online at

Early release dates: Wednesday early release dates are confirmed through December: Sept. 11, Sept. 25, Oct. 9, Oct. 23, Dec. 11. In addition, parent-teacher conferences will be held Nov. 12-14. Additional half-day dates will be announced later.

What’s new: The grand opening of a new Hudtloff Middle School will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 10. Greg Wilson is the new Hudtloff principal.

Two newly constructed schools on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Carter Lake and Hillside elementary schools, will open the first day of school. A grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at Carter Lake.

Chuck Eychaner is the new interim principal at Greenwood Elementary.

Three state-funded full-day kindergarten programs will start at Park Lodge, Lake Louise and Greenwood elementary schools.

General operating budget: $143 million.

New state dollars this year: $5.9 million.

Number of teachers: 820.

Phone: 253-583-5000.

Stay connected: on the Web, cloverparksd on Facebook, @cloverparksd on Twitter.


Estimated student population: 1,500.

School starts: Tuesday.

School ends: June 16.

Calendar: online at

Late start/early release days: Middle school has late start Wednesdays; elementary has early release Fridays.

General operating budget: $15.4 million.

New state dollars this year: $564,000.

Number of teachers: 88 certificated staff members.

Phone: 253-862-2537.

Stay connected:


Estimated student population: 1,800.

School starts: Wednesday.

School ends: June 17.

Calendar: online at

Late start: Two-hour late start on Wednesdays (but not the first day of school).

What’s new: Superintendent Krestin Bahr; new principal of Columbia Crest and assistant principal of Eatonville Middle School, Angie Tuning.

Also new this year: all-day kindergarten for all.

General operating budget: $19.6 million

New state dollars this year: $898,711.

Number of teachers: 107 certificated staff members.

Phone: 360-879-1000.

Stay connected:


Estimated student population: 3,515.

School starts: Tuesday.

School ends: June 13.

Calendar: online at

Late start days: One hour late most Mondays. See calendar for details.

What’s new: Superintendent John McCrossin, Endeavour Intermediate School Principal Paula McPhee.

A new notification program for emergency school closures, called FlashAlert.

General operating budget: $35.3 million.

New state dollars this year: $1.9 million.

Number of teachers: 206 certificated staff.

Phone: 253-517-1000.

Stay connected:


Estimated student population: 7,120.

School started: Aug. 27.

School ends: June 17.

Calendar: online at

Early dismissal days: Every Wednesday except Aug. 28, Sept. 4, Oct. 9, Nov. 20, Nov. 27, Jan. 22, March 12, March 19, March 26, May 21, May 28 and June 11.

What’s new: All classrooms at Brookdale, Central Avenue, Harvard and James Sales elementary schools received “learning wall” technology; new artificial turf at Franklin Pierce Stadium; an upgraded network infrastructure district-wide; Brandy Nelson is the new principal at James Sales Elementary.

General operating budget: $81.3 million.

New state dollars this year: $2.5 million.

Number of teachers: 496 non-administrative certificated personnel.

Phone: 253-298-3000.

Stay connected:


Estimated student population: 2,400.

School starts: Tuesday.

School ends: June 17.

Calendar: online at

Early dismissal: every Friday.

What’s new: Career and technical education programs at Orting High School in sports medicine, biotechnology, veterinary medicine and aerospace technology. The school wood shop has new machinery.

General operating budget: $21.7 million.

New state dollars this year: $950,000.

Number of teachers: 125 certificated staff members.

Phone: 360-893-6500.

Stay connected:; Michelle Curry@OrtingSupt.


Estimated student population: 8,900.

School starts: Wednesday for most students, Sept. 12 for Henderson Bay High School. Kindergarten students start on rotating days. Check with your elementary school.

School ends: June 19,

Calendar: online at and

Late starts: Wednesdays: high schools, 8:30 a.m.; middle schools, 9:15 a.m.; elementary schools, 10 a.m. Exceptions noted on calendar. No late start on the first day of school.

What’s new: Hugh Maxwell, principal at Evergreen Elementary; Kristi Rivera, principal at Purdy Elementary; and 28 new teachers in the district. The enVision K-5 math curriculum and Holt Mathematics have been adopted in grades 6-8; Key Peninsula and Goodman middle schools join Gig Harbor and Peninsula high schools as demonstration schools for the Springboard college prep curriculum.

General operating budget: $89 million (estimated).

New state dollars this year: $3 million (estimated).

Number of teachers: 541 certificated staff members.

Phone: 253-530-1000.

Stay connected:,, transportation information: Follow Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto @PSDSUP on Twitter.


Estimated student population: 20,050.

School starts: Wednesday.

School ends: June 19.

Calendar: Online at

Late starts: All schools one-hour late start on Mondays. (This is a change from previous years, when school hours were modified on Wednesdays.)

What’s new: Website and communications tool, Edline. Principals have posted school websites, and teachers will be posting classroom websites; new elementary reading and social studies curriculum goes districtwide; AVID study skills program expands to four more elementary schools.

General operating budget: $205 million.

New state dollars this year: $10 million.

Number of teachers: 1,140 (count does not include teaching positions that are vacant).

Phone: 253-841-1301.

Stay connected:;; @PuyallupSD on Twitter


Estimated student population: 3,000.

School started: Aug. 29.

School ends: June 11.

Calendar: Online at

Early release: One-hour early release most Wednesdays. See calendar for details.

What’s new: Kathi Weight, interim superintendent; Debra Hay, principal at Steilacoom High School; Alex Clauson, principal at Saltar’s Point Elementary; Laurie Vallieres, principal at Anderson Island Elementary.

General operating budget: $32 million.

New state dollars this year: $89,000.

Number of teachers: 188.

Phone: 253-983-2200.

Stay connected:, @steillyschools1 on Twitter.


Estimated student population: 8,403.

School starts: Wednesday.

School ends: June 18.

Calendar: Online at

Late start days: 1.5 hours every Wednesday.

What’s new: Superintendent Sara E. Johnson; free all-day kindergarten at Daffodil Valley, Emerald Hills, Liberty Ridge and Bonney Lake elementary schools; Chromebook computers in all third- and fourth-grade classrooms.

Parents are urged to check school/bus information and first day of school start times on the district website, Students in grades K-5 start 15 minutes earlier this year, and dismissal times remain the same.

General operating budget: $85.7 million.

New state dollars this year: $487,883.

Number of teachers: 439 classroom teachers.

Phone: 253-891-6000.

Stay connected:, @SumnerLearning on Twitter.


Estimated student population: 28,363.

School starts: Wednesday.

Kindergarten starts: Sept. 9.

School ends: June 13.

Calendar: Online at

Late start days: SAMI, SOTA and Stewart Middle School have late start every Friday, when school begins at 10:30 a.m.

What’s new: Re-engagement and graduation support center for students who have dropped out or are in danger of doing so; Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a program expanding to more schools in the district.

General operating budget: $343.6 million.

New state dollars this year: $14.8 million (New funding includes some offsetting expenses; for example, pension funding increases mean the district will spend more to implement than it receives in revenues).

Number of teachers: 1,794 full-time certificated staff members.

Phone: 253-571-1000.

Stay connected:,, @tacomaschools on Twitter.


Estimated student population: 5,400.

School starts: Tuesday.

School ends: June 17.

Calendar: Online at

What’s new: New principals include Eric Brubaker, Curtis High School; Jayne Hofstrand, Curtis Junior High School; Chris Backman, Evergreen Primary School; William Keith, University Place Primary School; and Jennifer Wong, Narrows View Intermediate School.

English teachers will use new curriculum in grades 9-12; the district has developed a new algebra 5-6 class, a more rigorous course.

General operating budget: $55 million.

New state dollars this year: $1.3 million.

Number of teachers: 358 certificated staff members.

Phone: 253-566-5600.

Stay connected:


Estimated student population: 3,351.

School starts: Tuesday.

School ends: June 12.

Calendar: Online at

Late start days: Mondays, one hour late start, except Nov. 25 and June 9.

What’s new: Full-day kindergarten at no charge for all kindergarten students; new Springboard curriculum from the College Board for English Language Arts in grades 6-12; Advanced Placement Human Geography, which brings the total number of high school AP courses to 11.

General operating budget: $33.3 million.

New state dollars this year: $1.5 million.

Number of teachers: 197. certificated staff members (not including administrators).

Phone: 360-829-0600.

Stay connected:

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635


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