WELLINGTON — For every child it was different, but the 107 youngsters in five all-day kindergarten classes had a reason to be thrilled to be in school.
Some liked playing with their friends, while others liked the hamburgers for lunch.
Justin Yeager, 5, said he wasn’t scared at all to start kindergarten at Westwood Elementary School.
“I’ve been to preschool,” Justin said.
Others said they liked being at “the big school” with older children.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” said Hannah Maitland, 5.
Excitement built early on as the children walked a red “carpet” — a long red column of paper — with their parents watching as kindergarten started last Wednesday.
“We didn’t have any criers, but we had some parents crying,” Westwood Principal Sheila Buckeye said.
The first day of school for the rest of the district was Tuesday, but the kindergarteners spent that day coming to staggered, one-on-one introductions with their teachers at Westwood.
The all-day, free kindergarten, which attracted five children through open enrollment, has been a goal of the Wellington school board for several years and now it is a reality, Buckeye said.
Wellington used to have just one all-day kindergarten class, but now there are five classes, she said.
By year’s end, the children will be reading, writing and doing math, she said.
Buckeye said she is proud of the staff assembled to teach the little ones.
What makes a good kindergarten teacher?
“You have to be flexible, with a good working knowledge of child development, and you have to have the ability to teach individually and in a group setting,” she said.
At such an early age, there is a big difference between the youngsters, she said.
“We have kids who will be 6 very soon and kids who are barely 5,” she said.
The school day is 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. — a rather long day for 5-year-olds — but things are going very smoothly, she said.
“A lot of our kids have been in preschool or day care, so they are used to ‘all-day,’ ” Buckeye said.
Wellington Superintendent Francis Scruci said he expects free all-day kindergarten to improve test scores as children advance through elementary school.
Although Wellington received an overall effective rating on its state report card — one notch below excellent — the district has some areas to improve upon, especially reading and mathematics test scores for the third grade, he said.
By starting all-day kindergarten this year, Wellington is a step ahead of many smaller districts around the state.
The 2010-11 biennial state budget calls for all districts to offer tuition-free, all-day kindergarten starting with the 2010-11 school year. It now is offered by 464 of the 612 districts across the state.
Many larger districts such as Elyria and Lorain already offer all-day kindergarten at no charge because they receive poverty-based funding from the state.
Send your Wellington and Oberlin news to Cindy Leise, 329-7245 or firstname.lastname@example.org.