Letters to Santa

Zayden Standlee reacts after Canyon Ridge junior Kyle Symes, right, helps him sound out a word Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, while writing a letter to Santa Claus at Rock Creek Elementary School in Twin Falls.

PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTO

TWIN FALLS — Parents: If you’re willing to pay $250 per month, your child can attend all-day kindergarten.

Rock Creek Elementary School — one of two new Twin Falls schools that opened in August 2016 — is offering a full day class this year. About 15 students are enrolled.

Idaho gives public school districts only enough money to pay for half-day kindergarten classes, and parents aren’t required to enroll their children in kindergarten at all.

But some schools look for ways to expand the number of hours children are in class. Research shows many benefits to all-day kindergarten, including increased academic achievement and positive effects on emotional and social development.

At Rock Creek Elementary, “I think they’re trying to provide a service to parents,” said Teresa Jones, elementary programs director for the Twin Falls School District. “It just makes sense that kids are going to make even greater gains by spending more time in schools.”

It’s up to each individual school whether to offer all-day kindergarten.

If you don’t live in the Rock Creek school zone, you can put in a transfer request. But if your child is accepted, school busing wouldn’t be provided.

Three other Twin Falls elementary schools — I.B. Perrine, Oregon Trail and Lincoln — are offering a full-day kindergarten option for students this year who need reading help.

Parents don’t pay for that, and it’s funded using state literacy money.

Students haven’t been identified yet, Jones said, but it’s something school employees will work on Tuesday during a data day.

Back at Rock Creek Elementary, requests for all-day kindergarten came up from several groups: teachers and parents.

The offering is open to any child, not just ones who need extra help.

When Rock Creek opened in the quickly-growing northwest end of Twin Falls, quite a few teachers transferred from I.B. Perrine Elementary, where all-day kindergarten was offered in the past.

“They had seen what a difference the all-day kindergarten program had made over there and how it worked with parents paying,” Twin Falls School District spokeswoman Eva Craner said.

Jerold Guthrie decided to enroll his daughter, 5-year-old Raliegh, in all-day kindergarten at Rock Creek.

“The biggest reason would be just that my wife and I both work a lot,” Guthrie said. He’s an associate principal at South Hills Middle School, and his wife is a nurse.

Figuring out transportation for their daughter was a challenge when considering half-day kindergarten, Guthrie said.

“The full day helped out with that,” he said.

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So far, Raliegh loves kindergarten, Guthrie said.

“She comes home and is excited and tells us what she has learned during the day,” he said.

Guthrie said he hopes to see some good academic growth in his daughter.

Gurthrie said he’s happy there was an opportunity for all-day kindergarten and hopes it continues so other families can participate in the future.

But he knows the extra cost would be a struggle for some families.

Jeremy Belliston and his wife — who are both teachers — saw the benefits of all-day kindergarten when their oldest child, who’s now 10, was enrolled in a full-day program at Perrine Elementary.

Now, his younger son, 5-year-old Braxton, is enrolled in all-day kindergarten at Rock Creek Elementary.

“Obviously, it’s that much more exposure to the teacher and helps them get into a more solid routine,” he said.

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