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Teachers back plan to ease kids into kindergarten

Will attend on alternating days during first two weeks of school

COAL CITY — Teachers say a change to the district’s kindergarten schedule the Coal City School District 1 board approved Wednesday will better help kids transition into full school days.

Under the new schedule, effective next fall, kindergarten children will attend school every other day for the first two weeks of the school year in an “A-B” rotation designed to decrease class sizes and separation anxiety while the kids adjust to school.

“What it boils down to is doing what’s best for the kids,” said Chris Spencer, principal of the early childhood center.

Coal City kindergarten teachers in attendance said that means allowing kids an adjustment period as they begin school.

“We see kindergarten as the foundation of learning,” said teacher Kelly Steichen. “We just want to give it to them at their own pace.”

According to teachers in attendance, the first two weeks of school often prove stressful for kindergartners — particularly those of today who, the teachers say, are under more stress at an early age than those in past generations.

“There are a lot more expectations now for kindergartners,” teacher Josh Quigley said. He sees the kids’ stress manifest in crying and chewing on sleeves constantly, he said, drawing an analogy to basketball.

“We would never pick a team and expect them to play the next day,” Quigley said. “But that’s we’re doing here with these kids.”

But easing them in for the first two weeks, he said, would help decrease stress and separation anxiety among students, strengthen relationships with both their teachers and their peers, and engender more positive feelings toward school from an early age.

Based on a model by Saratoga school in Morris, the plan is to divide classes in half for the first two weeks of the year. That way, kids can better acclimate to each other and the demands of a full school day.

Spencer said at the meeting that parents he had spoken with supported the idea. The group also got support from first-grade teachers they discussed it with.

“There are always bumps in the road,” Spencer said. “But we think this will be for the best.”

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