District offering full-day kindergarten starting ‘22-’23

By replacing the current half-day kindergarten program with a full-day schedule, the district plans to offer deeper academic and social education through purposeful play and an adapted curriculum.


Photo by Sandra Voelker

Building blocks…Participating in purposeful play, (from left) Franconia Elementary School kindergarten students Xavier White, Kai Gwozdz and Marina Manaa construct using green cups.

In order to provide more instructional-focused days for kindergartens, the district will be implementing a full-day kindergarten program starting in the 2022-2023 school year specifically integrating purposeful play.
A crucial component of the program is purposeful play, which aims to allow students more time to apply content and standards in a playful manner.
According to the district’s Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment and Technology, Katie Kennedy-Reilly, the goal is to keep kindergarten functioning as kindergarten.
“What we’re not looking for is making kindergarten our new first grade,” Kennedy-Reilly said. “There’s plenty to learn and do just simply in kindergarten.”
The program is intended to “honor the developmental age of kindergartens” Franconia Elementary School kindergarten teacher Sandra Voelker said.
According to Superintendent Frank Gallagher, the new program is what is best for children.
“It gives them more opportunity to start their learning experiences and also build in purposeful play, which is a learning technique,” Gallagher said.
With the extended time of the school day, students and teachers will have more opportunities to apply intentional purposeful play. This helps foster academic and social skills.
“Through intentional purposeful play, a teacher sets an objective that we want all the children to learn,” Kennedy-Reilly said. “The children plan together, how are we going to play this, how we’re going to play grocery store, airport, they make the toys and supplies then they engage in that play.”
In addition, some teachers are involved in developing a new curriculum to involve purposeful play, as well as a cohort to prepare for the full day called the Professional Learning Community. “I’m very excited,” Voelker said. “We are adding in our science and social studies through those purposeful play kinds of activities.”
Many expressed their excitement for the upcoming year. “I really am excited about just the idea of this new program and the idea that we are going to invite these kids into our classroom and really give them such opportunities for reading and writing and math and across the board in socialization,” Franconia Elementary School first grade teacher Theresa Hunsicker said.
Some community members have been looking forward to and supporting the new program. “It’s what parents have been asking for,” Gallagher said. “There’s a lot of full-day kindergarten programs around here.”
The district received a grant through Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit program. Along with the grant, the Indian Valley Education Foundation and Univest also provided funding towards resources associated with purposeful play.
The plan to switch to full-day kindergarten was introduced in the 2019-2022 SASD Comprehensive Plan.
“To think that we’re still on track for being able to open up full-day, I think is a proud accomplishment for the district,” Kennedy-Reilly said. “There’s a lot of commitment behind meeting the needs of the students.”
Hunsicker hopes to make next year’s kindergarteners’ first experience with school fun and playful, while also establishing a love for learning.
“Probably one of the biggest reasons I became a teacher is because I want kids to love to learn. I love to learn,” Hunsicker said. “So I hope that that’s the beginning of this for the kids.”
Hunsicker said she believes there will be adjustments that are worth it in the long run. Hunsicker previously experienced the switch from a half-day to a full-day kindergarten program in another district.