For the kindergarteners at Las Juntas Elementary School, an added hour-and-a-half of school time means more time to play, socialize and learn.
For Parents, it means their children spending more time in the classroom and less in daycare, at no extra cost. And for teachers, the effect of the extended day program is clear: the kids are getting smarter.
In fact, 76 percent of students are able to read consonant-vowel-consonant words like "cat," "dog" and "cow" compared to just 38 percent this time last year. Almost all students, around 99 percent, can name and order numbers up to 30. Last year, before the extended day program, only 72 percent could count that far.
The achievement gap has started to close and English-language learners have shown marked improvement, according to teachers.
Aaron Tarzian, principal of Las Juntas Elementary school, along with a group of kindergarten teachers, presented the results of the pilot program at the school board meeting Monday night. Tarzian and the kindergarten teachers had nothing but good news to share.
"It's a win-win situation," said teacher Sharon Geernaert. "The kids feel a little more part of the community, and the parents will invest more in the schools when their child invests more.”
The extended day program is also cost neutral. Previously, when kindergarten classes ended at 11:35am instead of 1:30pm, teachers were used for intervention with other grade levels or to teach daily preparation classes. Now, they stay in their own classrooms.
"We found a way to use them to work with the kindergarteners for extended day, which is really a good use for them because that's their area of expertise," said Tarzian. "It's really refreshing to have teachers that want to spend extra time with their students."
Las Juntas Elementary School has the largest proportion of students from low-income families of the four elementary schools in Martinez, as well as the most English language learners. With First 5 funding being reduced next year and class sizes increasing, Tarzian reminded the board, extending classroom time is more important than ever.
English language learners have flourished in the extra class time, the teachers noted, from speech to socialization skills.
"It's just amazing," said board member Vicki Gordon after the presentation. "It really puts a spring back in my step."
The board voted unanimously to continue the extended day program and to explore opportunities for expansion to other schools.