East Lansing Keeps Full-Day Kindergarten

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After a tense and sometimes emotional meeting, the East Lansing Board of Education voted 5-2 to keep the district's full-day kindergarten program.

The decision came after some questioned the effectiveness of the program, and others thought a half-day program could save the district money. Most at the meeting supported a full day for five-year-olds.

"It allows the children to have more time with individual lessons -- with reading, with math, science. And these are all things that are very important, especially at an early age," parent Kathleen Geiger said.

Geiger, a Weberville resident, is sending her kids to east lansing schools. She says she sought out the district because of its full-day kindergarten.

That decision goes to the very heart of the argument over the all-day program.

Some say the district could save hundreds of thousands of dollars by trimming kindergarten to a half day. Others say, without an all-day program for five-year-olds, parents like Geiger wouldn't choose East Lansing.

And if fewer parents send their kids to East Lansing schools, the state would give the district less money -- potentially undercutting the budget savings from half-day kindergarten.

Proponents of a full day say the daylong programs put kids in a better place when it comes time to enter 1st grade. East Lansing grade school teacher Kathy Valentine says students coming to her classroom from a full day of kindergarten are better prepared.

"They are already familiar with many of the vocab words," Valentine said.

Public comments at the meeting were overwhelmingly in favor of the all-day program. But one parent and one board member expressed serious reservations about what 'other' programs would have to be cut if all-day kindergarten stays a part of the curriculum.

"The end result is: We're not going to have reading strategies at the high school. And that is just wrong," board member Daphne O'Regan said.

O'Regan and Rima Addiego, the board's vice president, voted to trim the program to a half day.