CHESHIRE — Schools opened for a new year Tuesday, and for Chapman, Darcey, Highland and Norton, the day represented another first: the first day of full-day kindergarten in the district.
Darcey Principal E. Ann Donnery felt “proud and relieved” that the day had finally arrived.
“You can’t imagine the work that’s gone on” to prepare for the program since it received its final approval in May, she said. “If you could have been here last night, you would have seen a whole crew of people. I think our lunch ladies slept here.”
The school, which features kindergarten and prekindergarten, converted a multi-purpose room that was previously used for art and physical education into a cafeteria and kitchen space so the facility could serve lunch for the first time.
The room’s sink was installed Monday night, said Madeleine Diker, the district’s food service director. At 11:45 a.m., the second wave of kindergartners entered and sat down quietly among chairs at four round tables.
Darcey has three lunch waves, each consisting of two kindergarten classes.
“For them, this is all wondrous and exciting,” Donnery said.
Highland Principal Beverley Scully said some of her school’s kindergartners adjusted to the new realities of a full-day school so well that they purchased a cafeteria lunch on the first day.
To help them become acclimated, kindergarten classes practiced lunch procedures in the morning.
“It went without a hitch,” Scully said.
After lunch, students lined up to return to their classrooms for quiet-time activities such as reading, drawing, coloring or napping.
“They’re a little tired,” Scully said, adding that the quiet period was observed by all grades at the school.
Teacher Lindsay Schaller said an expanded day requires more planning but said the task has been made easier because all of the district’s kindergarten instructors collaborated during the summer to “develop a plan for how full-day K would work.”
“All of the teachers are happy to work together” and share lesson ideas and activities, she said.
Norton Principal Mary Karas said her kindergarten staff worked extensively with each other, as well as with colleagues at other schools, to implement the full-day program.
Each of the school’s three kindergarten classes also has an instructional assistant to support the teacher, Karas said.
“We’re off to a great start,” she said.
Waiting to pick up her son in the Chapman cafeteria, Devon Votto suspected that he might be tired by the time school dismissed.
She said the school held a useful orientation for parents last month to help them prepare children for transition to a full-day schedule.
“I feel like he’s pretty much ready for what he’s going through now,” she said.
Parent Jacqueline Grabiec had no concerns about fatigue on the part of her daughter. The girl attended prekindergarten at Darcey last year and always wanted to stay longer, Grabiec said.
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