Gov. Evers supports full-day 4K proposal

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - A proposal could mean full-day 4K programs for Wisconsin school districts. While some are in favor of the plan, others are more skeptical

Right now 4K in Wisconsin is only half-days. Under this plan 4K programs would run from 8 am to 3 pm, closer to a typical school day for older students. However, some aren't giving this pitch a passing grade.

The state department of public instruction says 98.3% of Wisconsin communities provide free public education to 4-year-olds. A proposal wants to make those programs available for a full class day: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“It’s easier to get a child academically ready for school than it is getting them emotionally ready for school,” said Nicole Saastad, The Director of The Learning Tree in Eau Claire. She said, while there is a push for the change, it's the children who won't get much out of it.

"As a teacher, I’m like wow we can get a lot done in a full day with a child,” she said. “But for that kid, their attention span is not there. Their minds are going to be tired, their bodies are going to be tired. You're going to have to find more ways to entertain them than educate them."

The full school day would change how 4K students are counted by a school district, making them a "full" student, rather than the current "half" student when it comes to funding.

Leah Szapa teaches 4K at The Learning Tree. She says a full-day program is a big day for children and can be difficult.

“Being in that full day setting if they were to be there from say 8 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon, that's a long day for kids just entering for the first time,” she said.

Ashley short from Altoona agrees, saying a full day could be overwhelming.

“My daughter just turned 5 and she is in a 4K program. It’s just half-days 4 days a week,” Short said. “She already seems a little overly tired at night.”

But other administrators, like Eau Claire Area School District Director of Teaching and Learning, Jim Schmitt, disagree.

“The idea of students being in a play based learning model, which is very very content and curriculum based, over a longer period of time isn't as overwhelming as it might seem at first,” he said.

Another part of the proposal centers on the age requirement for students entering 4K.

Eligible students would be kids turning four by December 31, instead of the current September 1. Governor Evers is also proposing spending five million dollars on a new grant program to add three-year-old kindergarten in the state's five largest school districts, which does not include Eau Claire. He hopes the plan passes the legislature and be in place for the 2021-2022 school years.