School board considers junior kindergarten
– By Katie Zerr
The Mobridge-Pollock School Board Monday, April 8, heard member Jane Looyenga discuss her research on the possibility of establishing a junior kindergarten class at Freeman-Davis School.
These programs are established in 156 schools statewide. Junior kindergarten is a class for students who are at least five-years old with curriculum designed to meet the individual learning needs of every child. The class is designed to help those kids who may not be quite ready, socially or for other reasons, for kindergarten. Kids whose birthdays are in the spring and summer, because they are younger, benefit from the junior kindergarten concept, according to Looyenga. Pre-screening scores would help to determine if students needed to be placed in junior kindergarten. Because the classes are not preschool, it would not cost the district extra funding to establish the program, and would be funded as any other class under state law she said.
Looyenga, along with teachers Amber Lenz and Jessica Jahraus and Elementary Principal Jill Olson traveled to Pierre to visit that district’s junior kindergarten program. They spoke to teachers and administrators and sat through some classes. Looyenga said the trip was informative and was just part of the research she has done concerning the classes. She spoke with officials in a number of districts across the state that provide the classes and each said there was a positive impact on the students and their test scores.
“These classes take the children that are not ready to learn and give them more of a chance to succeed,” said Looyenga.
One of the reasons these classes are becoming more prevalent in schools is because students are expected to do more advanced work than in previous generations.
“I think it will help our students at the elementary level,” said Superintendent Tim Frederick. “Curriculum is moving down. First-graders are now doing work that was once second-grade level.”
He said the program could be implemented over time if the board decided they wanted to move forward with the program. He voiced concern about the next class as preliminary registration has 46 students coming into the 2013-2014 kindergarten classes in the district. That is down from 66 students in this year’s class.
“Would we have enough students with 45 to justify another teacher?” he asked.
A plan to survey parents, do the test screening and gather more information about incoming students was set in order for the board to vote on establishing the class for 2013-2014 at the board meeting in May.
Mobridge-Pollock Athletic Director Joe Lenz told the board the South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) is researching a change in regional play that would have a big impact on the district’s athletics.
Last year the SDHSAA voted to do away with district play and have tournament play in the regions only. Now the SDHSAA is considering a change that would have the two top seeds in the eight regions playing against the top two seeds in another region to determine which teams would go to the State A tournaments.
That would mean the top two seeds in Region 6 with Mobridge-Pollock, Chamberlain, Winner, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte and Crow Creek would be playing the top two seeds in Region 5, which includes Wagner, Tri-Valley, Mt. Vernon-Plankinton, Bon Homme, Parkston, McCook Central and West Central. The top seed in one region would play the second seed in the other.
Lenz explained that would mean a very long weekday trip for Mobridge-Pollock teams if they had to travel to a Region 5 team’s school. It also means there could be no teams representing certain regions in the tournaments.
“It will be a travel nightmare for our school,” he told the board. “But they want to have the best teams represented at the state tournaments.”
The SDHSAA board of directors will vote on this change on Tuesday, April 16. Lenz said he would attend the meeting to voice the district’s opinion on the plan.
The 2013 South Dakota State Legislature passed a bill that would allow any school board to create, establish, and supervise the arming of school employees, hired security personnel, or volunteers for protection in schools. Frederick told the board that on advice from the district’s attorney, until the question of personal liability is clear, the board should refrain from the implementation of arming a staff member or hiring an armed resource officer. As the law is now, the district, superintendent or even single board members may be held liable if something should happen in the district’s schools.
He said the district will continue to work on the emergency response procedures they have in place in order to enhance the safety at the schools. They will also continue to work with local emergency management on emergency procedures and will hold a “Code Black” drill with the staff this spring and again in the fall with students.