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      Full day kindergarten begins in Iron Mountain

      It's a big and unexpected change for the Iron Mountain Public School District. This year, their kindergarteners will have to attend full school days from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. instead of half days.

      The school district receives $7,115 in school aid fund per student from the state, but this year that money comes with a new condition: Michigan schools will receive half of that money per student if they only have half-day kindergarten programs, so Iron Mountain made the switch.

      "We crunched the numbers, and we would have lost approximately $338,000 in school aid funding if we did not employ the full-day kindergarten program," said Tom Jayne, Superintendent of the Iron Mountain Public School District.

      The school district was not forced to change to full-time kindergarten, but it would have been severely disadvantageous to not make the change. Jayne believes that given enough time, the school would likely have switched to a full-time program anyway, but just not this soon. So far, other than a few concerns, there have been no major objections from staff or parents.

      Danielle Dumais has taught for 14 years, seven of which were kindergarten. She will teaching 20 of the currently 95 incoming kindergarteners. There are three other teachers, two of which are new hires. That totals a cost of about $180,000. So given the new conditions with funding, the school will still come out positive, about $158,000.

      Dumais is optimistic of the changes and remembers some of the challenges of a half-day program.

      "Last year I had two classes, so I had double the amount of students, double the amount of parent-teacher conferences, double the amount of wish books to go home, double the amount of kids to be concerned with and make sure that they were on task and that they were learning what they were supposed to be," said Dumais.

      Under a half-day schedule, Dumais says it was nearly impossible to include everything into the school day, but with a full day, there's more time to learn, have fun, and create a more rewarding experience.

      "Just to be able to make an impact on that child, even more so than I've done in the past, is something I'm really looking forward to...to have a whole day to get to know them, to watch them learn, to make things fun, to make things exciting for them, and just to make their kindergarten year the best possible," Dumais said.

      Classes begin Tuesday, right after Labor Day, for the Iron Mountain School District in what is shaping up to be a very different year for the kindergarten.