By Megan Ruth
Mason Times staff writer
On Monday, Feb. 14, Mason Public School District implemented a new program to ensure that kindergarten students are ready to advance to the first grade. The program, called Kindergarten Plus, is an afternoon enrichment program designed for at-risk kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students. It is hosted at James C. Harvey Educational Center, formerly Cedar Street Elementary.
Kindergarten Plus’ curriculum focuses on the deficiencies of its students and improving in those areas. Students who participate in Kindergarten Plus have been identified as being at-risk of failure for the current year.
Eighteen students are enrolled in Kindergarten Plus, according to Superintendent Mark Dillingham. There are 5 students from both Alaiedon Elementary and North Aurelius Elementary, and 8 from Steele Elementary, according to Lori Hansen, Child Development Services Coordinator. Mason Public School District offers the program for free. This includes the child’s transportation to and from the program, as well as a free lunch. “This is something that is near and dear to my heart,” Dillingham said at the Community and Staff Relations Committee meeting on Thursday, Feb. 16.
Kindergarten Plus is currently offered only in the afternoons, meaning students who attend p.m. kindergarten are unable to receive the personalized help that their a.m. counterparts are getting. Dillingham said that he hopes the school district will be able to have both morning and afternoon enrichment programs next year.
The facilitators of Kindergarten Plus keep in contact with the students’ teachers to keep updated on the students’ progress, as well as which areas still need work. This is intended to make sure that the students are receiving help in areas where they need it, and not areas they have already mastered.
Dillingham said that breaking down the barriers between different buildings in the school district is another goal of this program. He says that in previous years, communication between the different sectors has been sparse, and that facilitating more open communication can only be beneficial.
Not only does the program help students get on track to pass kindergarten, it gears them toward success in the first grade. Becky Brimley, secretary of the Mason Board of Education, agreed that putting students on a more level playing field going in to first grade allows the students and teacher a greater opportunity to have a successful year.
Laura Fenger, a trustee on the Mason Board of Education said that sixth grade teachers would be thankful for this program as well.
Hansen said the district is “hopeful that staff will benefit by having 1st grade students at grade level, which allows more time for grade level teaching, and less time on remediation,” and that the program “will benefit students for life long learning.”