All-day kindergarten requirement leads to overcrowding

9:32 PM, Feb 21, 2013   |    comments
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HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) - Overcrowding issues are leading to a number of changes at the Hamilton School District. School leaders say the state's new requirement for all-day kindergarten has put elementary schools over capacity.

The gym at Blue Star Elementary has so many purposes, it's earned a special name.

"We're in our 'cafe-gym-atorium,'" says David Tebo, Superintendent of Hamilton Community Schools. "We have music instruction, it's our cafeteria, it's our gym, and it's also the auditorium."

In the 2014-2015 school year, the plan is to have fifth graders move into a different building. Tebo says it's the result of the state's all-day kindergarten requirement.

"Space is tight here," says Tebo. "We knew when all-day kindergarten came, we would have to seriously take a look at transitioning our fifth graders to the middle school."

The elementary even has special work spaces set up in the hall way, because there's not always room in the class. Kindergarten teacher Jill Sloothaak works on student assessments in the hallway.

"There is no place for me to assess in the classroom, so I'm assessing in the hallway," says Sloothaak.

Other teachers choose to do other activities in the hallway, like word games.

"We are trying to go beyond the limited space we have-- to try and engage the kids for meaningful learning," says Brooke Vruggink, a first grade teacher.

Tebo says the school district is taking its time on the move, so all questions and concerns will be answered, including how the middle school will be organized.

"Separate lunch for fifth graders, we could get to the point with the building to even have separate entrances, so we feel confident the interactions will be limited to what we want them to be," says Tebo.

WZZM 13 contacted other school districts to see how they're being affected by all-day kindergarten. Grandville moved several early education and pre-school programs into a building that had space. The district ordered extra cafeteria tables for all kids eating lunch. Forest Hills had to move its pre-school program from one elementary to another to make space for all-day kindergarten classes. Grand Haven moved its fifth graders into the middle school to accommodate the kindergartners.

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