By Josette Keelor
WINCHESTER -- Twins Madison and Damon were a little nervous on their first day of kindergarten Monday, but their father Stephen Moore said he was probably even more nervous than they were.
"I think they did better than I did in the end," he said once the school day had ended.
At the suggestion of their day care teachers, the 5 ½-year-olds were assigned to separate classes in pre-school at Lighthouse Academy last year, a practice Moore and his wife Mary Moore plan to continue at Orchard View Elementary School west of Winchester.
Damon was excited to participate in a gingerbread scavenger hunt that taught kindergarteners where important school rooms are, and Madison said she enjoyed taking her art resource class.
But Damon's favorite part of the day was playing outside on the school's two playgrounds, something his teacher Tiffany Brosig said she also enjoyed about Frederick County Public Schools' new full-day kindergarten program.
"You didn't have recess in a half day," said Brosig, who just started her ninth year teaching kindergarten at Orchard View.
Having a full day with one class of 18 students has been "so nice," she said. "We've had a chance to have more fun with the kids I think than we usually do. ... It's just made a huge difference."
"There's just a lot of time wasted in the half day, just with transition," she added.
The implementation of the county-wide full-day kindergarten is the biggest single addition this school year next to the Chromebook program that sixth graders should start on Friday, Superintendent David Sovine said at an afternoon news conference at Orchard View. Full-day kindergarten has required a lot of planning ahead, he said, but "Our teachers stayed the course."
Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Jim Angelo agreed, "The full impact of full-day kindergarten will be felt for years to come."
Sovine thanked all educational personnel, including lunch crews and bus drivers, for keeping children safe Monday and helping the schools' first day run smoothly. The school division opened earlier than usual this year to "maximize the amount of instructional time" in the school year.
Opening earlier allows schools to complete the first semester before the holiday break in late December, make a smooth transition into the second semester and "capture some good weather days early in the calendar," he said.
It's also allowed some time for the division to work with at the end of year if they exceed the five bad weather days built into the school year. If all goes well, Sovine said he expects school to let out in early May.
Public school attendance in Frederick County as of Monday was down from last year's first day of school, numbering 12,647 students spanning kindergarten through 12th grade. It's a decrease of 49 students from last year, but Sovine said he expects an increase by September, considering the early start.
Assistant Superintendent for Administration Al Ordorff agreed. By this time of year, he said, "Kids are ready to come back."
Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org