Kindergarten teacher Kate Alvarado spent the summer preparing for Wednesday's first day of school.
With full-day kindergarten kicking off throughout Elgin-based U46 school district this year, the teacher at Hilltop Elementary School said it's exciting to see something she has worked for become a reality.
"They certainly invested the resources into giving the kids full-day kindergarten," said Alvarado, who has worked in the district since 1999. "It's so important that they set it up for five-year-olds in a way that's conducive to play and exploration. It allows more time for science, more time for math and more time for reading."
Alvarado, like many other U46 kindergarten teachers and principals, participated in eight professional development seminars this summer.
She said a full day provides an outlet for exploration in ways she previously hadn't imagined.
"We're having a big push for play," Alvarado said.
The change was a result of several years of consideration, research and planning, as well as efforts by the Citizens' Advisory Council. It was made in conjunction with boundary changes approved by the U46 Board of Education in December, officials said.
The new elementary school boundary lines give the district added space to manipulate learning spaces more efficiently and eventually eliminate costs for mobile classroom use, officials said. The boundary changes will affect 13 of the district's elementary schools and approximately 600 students.
In conjunction with the school board's decision to approve 26 new classroom additions at Coleman, Highland and Laurel Hill Elementary Schools, the new borders provide space for the arrival of kindergarten students across the district, officials said. At Coleman and Highland, 10 additional classrooms are housed at each building, while Laurel Hill features six new classrooms.
About 2,500 students are part of the first districtwide all-day kindergarten program, officials said in a release.
The play-based lesson plans will require children to learn through full sensory experiences, officials said. Kindergarteners will not only learn some basic building blocks of math and literacy, but they will also enjoy plenty of time interacting with each other and developing social and emotional skills.
"We can't wait for the Class of 2029 to begin their educational journey here at U46," said School District U46 CEO Tony Sanders in a news release.