Gibraltar Takes First Steps toward 4-year-old Kindergarten

Gibraltar School District earned awards and recognition for student achievement and district progress for Title I students several years in a row, 2016-19, as well as for developing phonics programming for students in need.

However, the K-12 district lags behind much of the state in one area: As of 2019, Gibraltar was one of only four school districts out of Wisconsin’s 411 that did not offer voluntary four-year-old kindergarten (4K). All other public school districts in Door County offer the optional program.

On May 17, the district’s Student Learning Committee met for initial discussions regarding establishing four-year-old kindergarten. Later that evening, school board president Stephen Seyfer recognized the efforts of the committee members, including Principals Gereon Methner and Brian Annen, and a well-known, statewide advocate for students with dyslexia, Kari Baumann.

“The research supporting 4K is overwhelmingly positive,” Superintendent Tina Van Meer wrote in an email to the Peninsula Pulse

She cited studies indicating that many children at age four have 800-word vocabularies, “while their peers from literacy-affluent homes have vocabularies that exceed 10,000 words.”

Kindergarten for four-year-olds can help close that gap. Seyfer said 4K provides children with “pre-academic skills training and essential socializing preparation for elementary school.” Reading and language-assessment systems that are already in place help the district to identify children entering kindergarten who demonstrate learning challenges. Having kindergarten for four-year-olds could help the district identify problems even earlier.

“We know that the earliest intervention to address these challenges is best practice,” Seyfer said. “4K programming is a strategy for providing these best practices earlier and to strengthen learning in the critical development period of K-3.”

In Baumann, the school district has a “Gibraltar parent who is recognized as a state leader in early reading and language interventions,” Seyfer said. “We are well informed in the research for and the need to address reading and language challenges early in a child’s education. We are committed to providing every assist possible for all children to become proficient readers.”

After listing more ways children would benefit from 4K, Seyfer said, “Why wouldn’t Gibraltar offer these advantages and opportunities to our school’s parents and children?”