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Tilden Kindergarten Center finishes first year

The first year of Tilden Kindergarten Center is almost complete.

More than 300 kindergartners have begun their education in the building. Now it is on to one of the three Independent School District 200 elementary schools -- Pinecrest, John F. Kennedy and Christa McAuliffe -- for first grade.

A year ago this spring, the ISD 200 Board of Education spared the Tilden building as it was making budget-cutting decisions. It opted to close and sell Cooper Elementary School.

"Just about everyone came here from different buildings," Tilden Principal Diane Smith said. "We have teachers from four different buildings here, buildings where only two or three were at the same level.

"I think that they've done a great job of developing into a team. There's a cohesiveness among them."

The building itself posed some initial challenges. The rooms were designed and built for an elementary school, not specifically for all kindergarten rooms. Only two classrooms have bathrooms in them.

The average class size has been 25. Next year, that will decrease to 22.

There are eight sections of all-day, every-other-day classes, three sections of all-day- every-day classes, one morning section, and one afternoon section.

With the morning and afternoon sections, the parents are responsible for the transportation at noon. The district buses students to school in the morning and from school in the afternoon.

Parents opting for the all-day-every-day classes, pay an additional fee for that choice, Smith said.

One area that has worked well with the kindergarten concept has been the schoolwide learning activities held in the gymnasium. Each activity has been designated for a station or stop in the gymnasium. The most recent event was the alphabet fair in April. The gymnasium will again be the location for the schoolwide activity.

"The classrooms have made use of different learning stations but on a smaller scale," Smith said. "But having all kindergarten here allows us to do these activities."

The parental involvement has definitely been a plus, too, this year, Smith said.

"We have great involvement by our parents," she said. "We have some who volunteer on a regular basis with classroom activities, and we have others who help with our special events."

Based on current enrollment information for next year, Tilden Kindergarten Center will have an additional section of all-day-every-day kindergarten, and another section of the half-day program.

Smith said next year should be an easier one for staff and students.

"We're not starting from scratch," she said. "We'll have the experience of what's worked for us."

As the school year comes to a close, Smith pointed to another plus.

"One of the highlights is staff development," she said. "It's all so specific to kindergarten and it's all right here. Everything is geared to kindergarten."