Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Big N is missing out on Kindergarten

Ever since the city of Ellensburg announced the cut to the kindergarten program it has been apparent that the kids are truly the ones losing in this situation. However, it is surprising just how much they are losing.

If you do not have a kindergartner in Ellensburg, you may not be aware of what the budget cuts have done. The city proposed 1/2 day only kindergarten with no bus service in the middle of the day or alternating full-day kindergarten. With both parents working full-time in our household, the only option was alternating full-day kindergarten.

For the entire month of November, Big N will have attended kindergarten 7 days. 5 fulls days, 1 half day, and a single day that was a gift from his teacher. He loves kindergarten, but he is hardly there and it is of no fault other than the city deciding to leave the kindergartner's behind this year.

The Washington state Legislature has set a minimum number of days that kindergarten should be in school as 180 half days.

WAC 180-16-215
Minimum one hundred eighty school day year.
(1)(a) One hundred eighty school day requirement. Each school district shall conduct a school year of no less than one hundred eighty school days in such grades as are conducted by the school district, and one hundred eighty half-days of instruction, or the equivalent, in kindergarten. If a school district schedules a kindergarten program other than one hundred eighty half-days, the district shall attach an explanation of its kindergarten schedule when providing compliance documentation to the state board of education staff.

I was curious if the math would work out. I sat down with Big N's school calendar and counted the days he will attend. The count worked out to 77 full days and 8 half-days. If we count each full day as 2 half days, the actual count is (77 * 2) + 8 = 162 half days.

For the entire school year, he will only get to go to school 85 times.

How on earth is this a 180 day equivalent? And why would the school board approve this set-up?

I think the kids are truly losing out this year.

What is even more appalling is kindergarten is totally canceled during conference days, when the rest of the school is still coming for half-days. This accounts for 10 half-day opportunities that the teachers are present and the kindergarten kids are once again, missing out.

Whoever decided that kindergarten doesn't matter should be ashamed of themselves.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Surprise! I'm home!

Big N has recently learned how to take the bus from school to the house. I made a trip to the school office, filled out the paperwork and was assured that he would only do this when a note had been sent from home. Pete was not happy with this decision. He was concerned that Big N would somehow manage to get onto the bus to the house without a note and end up at the house when no one is home. I assured him that he would only be able to do this on the days we sent a note to the school.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Big N surprised me this afternoon. I had the dogs outside and got a little nervous when I could hear both dogs barking very frantically. Just as the dogs began to calm down, the doorbell rang. Through our front window, I saw a short figure standing at the door on our front porch. I opened the door to find big N wearing a huge toothy grin. He was so proud of himself. He had gotten on the correct bus to his home, gotten off at his stop on the side of a busy highway and walked up the long driveway all by himself. He had made it all the way home on his own. He was very proud of himself.

To be honest, I'm proud of him that he wasn't scared, but it scares me. What would he have done if no one was home? What if the neighbor's overly aggressive dogs were out and came out after him?

He informed me that the teacher told him he was supposed to take this bus. Big N has told us with some authority that his teacher told him he is supposed to go to school on his days off. This leads me to believe he told his teacher that he was supposed to take the bus home. However, I'm more nervous that it could be the alternative, that the teacher sent him on the wrong bus or believed him without a note. Either way, this could put him in an unsafe position if we do not set some better guidelines. Even if he did make it home, he can't turn the lock in the door or open the back gate. He would be all alone on our front porch for some time before either of us got home.

Tomorrow we will drive to school and try to make sure he only takes the bus home when he has a note from us. As much as I love for him to come home and spend the day with me, not only do I need to get some work done, but I need for him to be safe on the days I am not here.

Today he got to watch Charlotte's Web in my office. Tomorrow we will have to make sure he ends up at day care.