It’s time for Zephyr Cove Elementary School kindergartners to put on their big boy and big girl pants. School is now in session, and that means big changes for the youngest students.
The only Douglas County elementary school at Lake Tahoe is beginning full-day kindergarten this year, offering young students and teachers more than twice the class time.
“We’ve been trying to get full-day kindergarten for about 20 years,” Douglas County School District superintendent Lisa Noonan said. “That’s a whole generation.”
In past years, kindergarten classes were 2 1/2 hours. Now, the 5- and 6-year-old students must endure more than six hours of class time. For the teachers, the change means a class that’s a lot more relaxed.
“In my life, this is the first time I’ve had all-day kindergarten, and it is wonderful,” Zephyr Cove kindergarten teacher Konnie Susich said. “We have time to move from one center to the next without running.”
Susich has been teaching in Douglas County for 31 years, 24 of which have been spent teaching kindergarten. For years, she lobbied the legislature to provide funds to schools for all-day kindergarten.
Zephyr Cove Elementary has a single kindergarten class with 18 students. The newly allotted time allows the class to delve into subjects such as music and art.
“They’ll get 45 minutes of art for the first semester and 45 minutes of music the second semester,” Principal Nancy Cauley said.
They have more time to read, write and do simple things like go to the bathroom, Susich said.
“In here, the children are a lot more interactive,” she said. “It’s much more laid back.”
Zephyr Cove Elementary started the 2013-14 school year Monday. At the school Tuesday, the kindergartners slid the slides, played basketball and chased each other in circles during recess.
For the most part, they seemed little daunted by the six-hour school day.
“I like the basketball hoop,” said 5-year-old Carl. “I like to write and do art.”
When asked if he was prepared to boycott the longer class time, he responded whimsically.
“Nah,” Carl said. “I have a fun time.”
Parents have been receptive, too, Susich said. One parent asked Susich if they had a nap time, she said. Though they don’t have a nap time, there is a period dedicated to reading books during which children can choose to put their head down.
The full-day kindergarten is funded by a combination of state, federal and grant funding. Though it’s not guaranteed to be funded year after year, Cauley hopes the results will speak for themselves, she said.
“It’s going to be very interesting to follow these students academically because they’re going to have this added exposure to a highly qualified teacher,” Cauley said.