by Kim Insley, KARE 7:57 a.m. EDT September 4, 2014.
PLYMOUTH, Minn. -- One by one kindergarten teacher Lindsey Rhymer meets her new students at Sunset Hill Elementary in Plymouth. Kindergarten assessments are a rite of passage as summer winds down and the school year gets underway.
For Wayzata Public Schools and every other Minnesota district, this year's kindergarteners will end their school year with a more developed set of skills than they did the year before. The passage of funding for all-day kindergarten by the Minnesota Legislature in 2013 was a game-changer that begins this academic year.
"How I would look at that is our incoming first grade students after having the full day kindergarten experience will have a fuller and stronger base of those essential skills that will serve them well throughout their school years," said WPS Superintendent Chase Anderson.
It will change how Rhymer and her fellow kindergarten teachers view their teaching day. "Before we just wanted them to know letters and sounds and now we want to talk about sight words and concepts of print and reading books," she said. "It's exciting because I think the kids are ready for it, and can do it, and now we have all day to work on all of that."
Wayzata was prepared to also offer a section of half day kindergarten for parents who wanted it, but Anderson said so few parents in the district expressed interest, the idea was shelved.
Half day kindergarten allowed districts to house more students in fewer classrooms. Now those classrooms will be utilized by one class for an entire day, which means many districts are having to add classrooms. Wayzata Public Schools is pushing the seams even more thanks to a steady stream of home-building and new families moving into the district.
"Wayzata has maintained a pretty healthy, moderate, consistent rate of one to two percent for the last decade or so," Anderson said.
In February, voters passed a bond referendum that will address the needs of a growing district, allowing for a new elementary school and an expansion of the high school.
Sunset Hill Elementary principal Karen Keffeler is overseeing plans for the new school, which she will helm once it opens.
"It will open in the fall of 2016, that is to address the increasing enrollment, and then also increasing the classroom needs for all day kindergarten," explained Keffeler, who is excited about the opportunity to plan for a school from the ground up.
She'll be factoring in how this year's introduction of all-day kindergarten could push learning boundaries, just as population growth pushed Wayzata Public Schools to add more space.
"We are just really excited to see what our kindergarteners will do this year, and then that might change first grade - what we do in first grade next year based on the successes and learning that we see in kindergarten this year."