Cassville opens Kinder Academy this year
Principal: New academy gives kids an 'extra year of development'
Eunice Thomas Elementary in Cassville will be adding a new type of program to its calendar for the 2017-2018 school year — the Kinder Academy.
A transitional kindergarten class, the Academy is designed for children who are old enough by state law to attend kindergarten, but who would benefit from having more time to develop social, emotional and academic skills before entering standard kindergarten classes.
In effect, it gives young learners the gift of time — time to develop social skills like learning how to get along with others, stand in line, follow directions, and all of the things that a child entering school for the first time must become acclimated to, but are not always ready for, simply because of their tender ages.
According to Catherine Weaver, Cassville primary principal, Missouri law says that at 5 years of age, a child must be properly placed within a classroom. But for children with late birthdays, a parent may not want them to start kindergarten because they do not want them to be the youngest in the class. But, they cannot stay in preschool.
"In the past, this law has created somewhat of a challenge for many families in our community," Weaver said. "They have turned age 5 by Aug. 1, but just really aren't ready to start kindergarten yet and need that extra year of development. Kinder Academy is a bridge for us that allows these kids to have that extra year of development, and to focus not just on academic skills but on social and emotional skills. Students in the academy will be gifted with an extra year for developing academic skills, fine and gross motor skill development, social awareness skills, core strength and social and emotional skill development.”
The concept is similar to the pattern previous generations of educators have followed with helping young children transition into the school system.
"Kindergarten has changed dramatically over the years," Weaver said. "It used to be half a day, and it was more focused on social and emotional development, but now there is a high academic accountability [per state standards], even in kindergarten, and they're not always ready [at that age] to focus or attend."
The program came about after researching similar programs in Branson and Bolivar, and based on the research, Weaver has high hopes for the program, which she expects will have far-reaching positive results and implications for children, families and the education system.
"Bolivar is the system we ended up doing the study with," Weaver said. "They've done the program for 10 years, and what they've found is that all the students in the program ended up scoring higher than their peers, and did not need intervention help [such as with reading and academics]."
Richard Asbill, district superintendent, echoed Weaver's enthusiasm.
“This is an important decision that will drive our educational goals now and into the future,” he said. “After evaluating other local programs and evaluating the data, student needs and community benefits carefully, the Board of Education, administration, and our faculty feel this will be a beneficial service for our youngest learners, allowing them the proper time to learn, grow and develop, ultimately leading to a successful educational path.”
The full-day course will offer both breakfast and lunch to students. Students will also expand their education outside of the traditional classroom by participating in daily curriculum of music, art, library, technology and physical education. Kinder Academy’s curriculum will be aligned with the Missouri Learning Standards between prekindergarten and kindergarten.
The course will be taught by Michelle Ramaeker, who has more than 14 years of experience in education, and 10 years experience teaching kindergarten at Cassville Primary.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to play a role in the success of our students in the new Kinder Academy program," she said. "I am looking forward to greeting my students the first day of school. It is a privilege to teach this course and I can’t wait to get started.”
“Michelle has a unique skill set that we know our Kinder Academy students will benefit from,” Weaver said. “We believe she is the right fit to lead this class.”
“While this school year is the inaugural year for this program,” Asbill said. “We look forward to many years of success within Kinder Academy and at Eunice Thomas Elementary. We are committed to providing the best possible learning environment for our students and believe this is a step in the right direction."
At a capacity of 15 students, Kinder Academy is already full for the school year. A screening process was utilized to select students.
"We are so excited and I know that our parents are, too, because we quickly filled up," Weaver said. "We limited it to 15 students to make it a smaller class size."
The Cassville district will be the first school in the Big 8 Conference to offer the program to students.