Full-day kindergarten offerings rising in Weber County, across Utah
The class day will be longer this year for some of the youngest elementary school students.
Starting this school year, all kindergarten classes in the Ogden School District will be full-day offerings. Likewise, full-day kindergarten will be the norm at 28 of 29 elementary schools in the Weber School District this year. That’s up in both districts from the 2021-2022 school year, when 88.2% of kindergarteners in Ogden and 30% in the Weber system attended full-day classes, according to Utah Full-Day Kindergarten Now, a coalition of groups that favor the longer school day.
Across Utah, a state official also anticipates a jump upward in full-day kindergarten offerings, thanks in part to availability of more state money. Though classes have already started for older students in the Weber and Ogden school systems, kindergarten classes don’t begin until Tuesday.
Around 46% of Utah kindergarteners attended full-day classes in the 2022-2023 school year, according to Christine Elegante, K-3 literacy specialist for the Utah State Board of Education. She told the Standard-Examiner that she expects that figure to jump to around 67% for the 2023-2024 school year.
“It might be higher than that,” she said.
Around 34% of Utah kindergartners attended full-day classes in the 2021-2022 school year, with the rest in half-day classes, and new funding streams have pushed the figure up. “Full-day kindergarten has been around for decades, just not here in the state of Utah,” Elegante said.
Notably, lawmakers approved House Bill 477 earlier this year, bolstering funding to allow for expansion of full-day offerings. The measure changes the funding formula for kindergarteners, increasing the per-pupil state funding school districts can tap, thus creating a more stable funding stream for kindergarten, Elegante said.
Mary Jo Williams, director of elementary education for the Weber School District, said full-day classes better prepare students for long-term academic success than half-day offerings, even if they haven’t been the norm in recent years in Utah.
Expanding the school day for kindergarteners has been a priority for Utah State Board of Education officials, the agency said in a press release, since full-day students “are less likely to need academic interventions in later grades. Additionally, full-day kindergarten provides an opportunity to identify learning challenges early on.”
Nevertheless, parents will still be able to keep their kindergarten kids in for just half a day, though she suspects half-day students will be the minority. “Our expectation is that most of our students will be full-day kindergarten,” Williams said.
She said the district created 17 new kindergarten teaching posts to accommodate the increase in full-day classrooms, boosting the total from 62 to 79. The only Weber School District school that won’t offer full-day kindergarten is Kanseville Elementary in West Haven, which doesn’t have enough space, according to Weber School District spokesperson Lane Findlay.
Ogden School District spokesperson Jer Bates said the Ogden system will also let parents keep their kindergarteners in school for only half the day, as in the Weber system.
Cassie Smith, community relations supervisor with Davis School District, said all 62 district elementary schools have full-day offerings. Kindergarten classes in the Davis system started on Wednesday.
Full-day kindergarten, Smith said, “has proved to be a popular choice” in the system.