Full-day kindergarten in Sequim is still a full academic year away, but local education advocates are laying some key groundwork for it.
WaKIDS — or Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills — is a statewide program helping families, schools and preschools prepare youths for full-day kindergarten classes.
A partnership with state, federal and private funding sources, WaKIDS events reached about 38,000 kindergartners last year, about half of the number who enter that grade each year. School districts in Washington participating in full-day kindergarten are required to implement WaKIDS programs and its three phases: The Family Connection, usually involving meetings between teachers, families and early learning professionals; Whole-Child Assessment, where teachers measure each child’s skills in six areas (social-emotional, physical, cognitive, language, literacy and mathematics); and Early Learning Collaboration, promoting communication between kindergarten teachers and early learning advocates.
While Sequim has yet to develop full-day kindergarten, educators are bringing WaKIDS programs to be ready in case the district implements the program.
Marilyn Walsh is the administrative assistant to Sequim school superintendent Kelly Shea and the WaKIDS coordinator for the Sequim School District. She helps host “Everyday Math for Preschoolers,” an event for teachers, preschool staffers and parents alike, from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11, at Greywolf Elementary School.
The event, part of the WaKIDS’s Early Learning Collaboration phase, is “to kind of build a bridge between the schools and early childhood education entities” and to “open up communication share the results of whole child assessment,” Walsh says.
Why math? “Math is the area that children are coming in least prepared,” Walsh says.
State officials estimate about 80,000 children enter kindergarten with varying degrees of skills. Parents can help their prekindergarten-aged children sharpen skills like math at home, Walsh says, with something as simple as asking them to set the table with a certain number of plates.
Teachers and preschool providers have to earn a certain amount of clock hours to remain licensed, Walsh says, and this provides 1.5 hours of credit toward that. But the event also is open to parents who may want to know what they can do to help their own children be ready for that transition into kindergarten.
“We’ll give them some ideas to talk about kindergarten readiness and start building the bridge,” Walsh says.
The event also is about making better connections between preschool providers and kindergarten teachers.
“Preschool teachers also are interested in what is considered ‘being ready for kindergarten,’” says Walsh, a former preschool business owner herself, running Sequim Early Learning for 26 years.
“It’s not babysitting at the preschool level,” Walsh says. “They have to have a curriculum to be licensed (and have) 10 hours of continuing education per year. We want them (teachers and early learning providers) to meet each other; they’re peers.”
The event is the second Sequim WaKIDS function; the schools hosted a BLOCKFest event in August, thanks to a grant. Walsh says Sequim likely will host another WaKIDS program in May.