Laguna is going full-day kindergarten

The length of the school day will increase for kindergarten students in Laguna Beach beginning this fall.

Officials with the Laguna Beach Unified School District shared the news, which will affect Top of the World and El Morro elementary schools, during Tuesday's board meeting. No vote of the board was needed.

Currently, the district operates half-day sessions — morning and afternoon — for kindergarten students. With the change, the students' school day will begin at 8:15 a.m. and end at 2:10 p.m., according to a news release.

"Our teachers have indicated a need to spend more time developing conceptual understanding in both mathematics and science, as well as time to develop reading skills to fluency," Alysia Odipo, the district's assistant superintendent of instructional services, said in the release. "Further, this allows us to broaden our motor skills and play opportunities that are vital for this age."

Parents and school staff have inquired about extending the kindergarten school day "for years," El Morro Principal Chris Duddy told the board.

"With full day, there is more time to work on fine motor skills such as handwriting," Duddy said. "But we also don't want to make our program so academic where they are sitting all the time. We also want them doing a lot of social interaction."

Research shows that full-day kindergarten programs have a stronger influence on language and academic learning and that children who attended an extended program were more able to adapt to the academic setting of higher grade levels than those kept on a half-day schedule, according to the news release.

Other Orange County districts, including Saddleback Valley, Ocean View and Newport-Mesa, are either testing or implementing full-day kindergarten programs, the release said.

The district expects to use existing teachers for full-day kindergarten, Assistant Supt. of Human Resources and Communications Leisa Winston wrote in an email. Instead of working two half-day sessions, they will teach one full-day session, she explained.

Top of the World has 71 kindergarten students this year and El Morro has 55, though the district is projecting decreased enrollment, Winston said.

Transitional kindergarten at El Morro will remain a half-day session.

Transitional kindergarten, for children who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2, is a two-year program that uses a modified curriculum the first year, Winston said, with students transitioning into regular kindergarten the subsequent year.

Online registration for both El Morro and Top of the World starts April 10.

Parents interested in enrolling their child at either school must complete the enrollment process at lbusd.org/page.cfm?p=904 before attending registration day.

The online questionnaire tells them what documents, such as proof of residency and immunizations, are required at registration.

Registration will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at El Morro on April 25 and during the same times at Top of the World on May 10.

Orientation, which includes a campus tour, will be held at 9:30 a.m. April 13 and 6 p.m. May 18 at El Morro, and 8:30 a.m. May 24 at Top of the World.

Children must be 5 years old by Sept. 1, 2017, to enroll for the 2017-18 school year, which starts Sept. 5.

bryce.alderton@latimes.com

Twitter: @AldertonBryce

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