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W. Fargo all-day K approved

The West Fargo School Board voted 7-0 Monday to make all-day kindergarten available to all students next fall. Board members did not decide if a half-day option would remain.

The West Fargo School Board voted 7-0 Monday to make all-day kindergarten available to all students next fall.

Board members did not decide if a half-day option would remain. That will be discussed in committee, Superintendent Dana Diesel Wallace said.

Now, the district must decide where all the students will go to learn.

There are 472 students taught between morning and afternoon sessions at the Kindergarten Center, Principal Betty Hanson said.

Next year, the district expects about 500 kindergartners.


The Kindergarten Center has 12 regular classrooms and three others for extended-day teaching, Hanson said. At least 10 more classrooms are needed for all-day use.

Space is tight but available, board member Tom Gentzkow said. There are four extra rooms at Lodoen Community Center and nine empty classrooms at Westside Elementary. There are also a few vacant classrooms scattered among other schools.

A board committee will review nine longterm options on Wednesday. The fixes include building another kindergarten center, adding rooms to Lodoen Community Center, adding a kindergarten wing at an elementary school, and returning kindergarten to each neighborhood school, Hanson said.

Some options will require the board to vote on a bond issue early next year to get construction finished in time to absorb expected enrollment growth, Diesel Wallace said.

West Fargo has long considered all-day kindergarten, but the Legislature's approval of full-funding starting in the 2008-09 school year cemented the deal, board member Karen Nitzkorski said.

The Legislature is allowing a one-year window next year for districts to start offering all-day kindergarten and get full-time student funding immediately, Business Manager Mark Lemer said. Any delay means the district would get half-funding for the first year of a program, he said.

Changing kindergarten from a half day to a full day will give students a deeper understanding of subjects, particularly reading, Hanson and Diesel Wallace said. It will also reintroduce the social learning aspects of kindergarten, they said.

A School District survey of North Dakota schools that switched to all-day kindergarten found broad support for the change and few problems.


Reading skills generally improved, with most students ready to learn in first grade. Teachers also found they had time for in-depth learning and to incorporate social and play activities into the classroom. Challenges included convincing some parents their children would adapt to allday kindergarten.

Other parents treated the extra time in school as free day care.

Other respondents pointed to an initial fatigue factor for some students and teachers in adjusting to the new schedule. "It's been a long time coming. And it's a big project, but we're looking forward to it," Hanson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

W. Fargo all-day K approved Helmut Schmidt 20071023

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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