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January 23, 2022

SLVUSD Will Explore Full-Day Kindergarten

After parents advocated for full-day kindergarten at consecutive school board meetings, the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District said it was willing to explore the idea.

Dylan Fetzer, a Ben Lomond resident who has a boy entering transitional kindergarten (TK) next year, says it’s something he’d like to see.

“They go from being at preschool for a full day to going to kindergarten for half a day,” he said. “It creates kind of a hassle because you have to find additional child care for your kid.”

While the Hewlett Packard Enterprise employee can work from home, he says he found out the hard way during the pandemic that taking care of a child at the same time is not sustainable.

When his other boy, who is now 8, was of age for TK they faced the same problem.

“We were able to afford to send him to YMCA,” he said. “If you can’t afford to send your student to an afterschool program, then you have to find a way to pick your kid up.”

It was Nikki Bryant, a fellow Ben Lomond resident, who started organizing the effort. Their children both attend Quail Hollow Montessori, and she started outlining the benefits of full-day education. This struck a chord with Fetzer.

“It would benefit them to have a more structured day,” he said. “It’s good for the kids.”

At the Dec. 15 SLVUSD board meeting, Bryant spoke during public comment period to advocate for full-day TK and kindergarten, citing how parents in the San Lorenzo Valley have lower incomes relative to the heart of Silicon Valley, where it can be more manageable to pay for childcare.

She said extending the school day for the youngest children in the district would be an “investment” in the community’s future.

In an interview with the Press Banner, Bryant explained she works full-time and has a son who is about to move into kindergarten.

“We have connections with a lot of other parents,” she said. “I was like, ‘Well, let’s try and do something about this.’”

As Bryant dug into the data, she says she turned up studies confirming a half-day approach to kindergarten wasn’t beneficial in the long run.

Plus, she believes now is the perfect time to make the switch, since the district is still in line for more money from the state, through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief program.

“It’s intended to help people get back to work,” she said. “It’s intended to help with learning deficits that have come up during the pandemic.”

According to her tally, more than 20 parents advocated—one way or another—for full-day kindergarten via the November board meeting, and 15 in December.

While the effort was clearly coordinated, and parents used similar language in their appeals, several spoke passionately and shared individual stories.

Instituting full-day kindergarten would be an easy way for SLVUSD to have a significant impact on the San Lorenzo Valley, Bryant argues.

“The school district could make a nice positive change in our community by switching to full-day kindergarten,” she said. “It would allow for families that are working parents to have a better balance in their life.”

At the December meeting, Superintendent Chris Schiermeyer said he doesn’t believe district officials are opposed to the idea. However, he said it wouldn’t be possible to put the matter on the agenda for the January meeting, as parents had requested.

“This is a conversation the district has had in the past,” he said, noting he wasn’t a part of the discussion at that time. “It’s a little premature to agendize it without giving you all the facts.”

Schiermeyer said the district gets funded the same whether students stay for the whole day or go home earlier.

The current roadblocks are logistical more than anything else, he added.

“You just need to have all the facts,” he told the board. “It’s already something that’s been brainstormed through a little bit.”

But if everything falls into place, the district could make the switch by next fall, Schiermeyer said.

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