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Sedalia 200 to implement new Kindergarten Academy


The first week of kindergarten will look different this year in Sedalia School District 200, all in the name of getting every student on the right educational path.

The 2023-24 school year will be the first time all five elementary schools will implement Kindergarten Academy for the first five days of classes. According to an informational flyer, “Kindergarten Academy is a new way of thinking about how to start kindergarten. This approach allows all educators to assess and sort students into balanced classes based on their individual needs, abilities, and learning styles.”

Elementary principals and Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction for K-5 Devon Gilmore presented the new program during last month’s Board of Education meeting. Families who attended kindergarten screenings received information about Kindergarten Academy, and all kindergarten parents can expect to receive a letter with more detailed information before the open house.

The principals said they’d discussed the idea for several years after learning about it from other districts.

Skyline Elementary Principal Kelly McFatrich told the Democrat recently that the goal is to find a balance for classrooms by getting to know students.

“When you don’t know the students and you basically randomly sort them into classrooms, oftentimes you will have a couple classrooms that just aren’t balanced as far as academically, emotionally, socially, gender even,” McFatrich explained.

“It’s about having a heterogeneous group. It’s not about ability grouping at all; it’s the opposite of that,” she continued. “Having a well-balanced classroom for the teacher and the kids. There are times where we’ll put some kids together and they aren’t a good fit, they don’t get along. It’s nothing against the student or the teacher, it’s just their personalities don’t mesh well.”

Heber Hunt Elementary Principal Angie Meyer said creating kindergarten class lists is difficult because the teachers and administrators don’t have prior experience with the children other than a brief encounter during a screening if they enrolled in person. Creating class lists for first through fourth grade is easier because the school staff is already familiar with those students.

“It also makes us slow down with kindergarten a little bit,” Meyer added. “We’re going to focus on the social-emotional learning, the idea of school and like, ‘this is your school, when you walk in the door, we say “good morning.”’ Stuff like that. That social skills piece, that is a huge thing that I’ve seen since the pandemic, is social skills are so lacking. We talk about it in every single elementary. … We’re all beefing up our social skills.”

McFatrich said Kindergarten Academy “is a more intentional, thoughtful process for putting class lists together for kindergarten.”

Kindergarten Academy is just for the first five days of school. Parents and kindergarteners will meet their check-in/check-out teacher during open house night. This teacher will greet the student in the morning and take them to dismissal for those first five days.

Kindergarteners will spend the entire first day with their check-in/check-out teacher. During the following days, after checking in, the students will be mixed up and dispersed to another teacher’s classroom. Students will head back to their check-out classroom at the end of the day.

On Wednesday, Aug. 30, teachers and administrators will gather after school to finalize the kindergarten class lists and send home teacher assignments on Thursday, Aug. 31. That evening, parents will come back to meet their child’s teacher for the school year.

Meyer noted the kindergarteners will get to know all the students and teachers in their grade level, which can help them feel more comfortable at school.

McFatrich said she knows it’s a big change but thinks it’ll make a big difference.

“I really like the idea of (kindergarten) parents coming back a few days after school starts to meet the teacher,” McFatrich said. “... This will give them a second chance to come in, talk to the teacher about any concerns or needs that student has.”

Meyer said having Kindergarten Academy will especially help in her building, which was the pilot school for Transitional Kindergarten last year. That program is continuing this year at Heber Hunt, and she said this new format can help teachers identify students who may benefit from Transitional Kindergarten. The Democrat will have another article about Transitional Kindergarten later this week.

Gilmore said the goal is to have the best fit for each child.

“That sets the pace for your educational career,” Gilmore said of kindergarten. “We want them to have a positive, successful start.”

Open houses at all five elementary schools for kindergarten through fourth grade students will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 22. The first day of school for Sedalia 200 is Thursday, Aug. 24. Kindergarten Meet the Teacher Night will be from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31 at the elementary schools.

For more information, contact Central Office at 660-829-6450 or your child’s school.

Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.