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      Longer school week for Early Childhood students

      Today was the first day of classes for the Early Childhood Center in Quincy.

      At the same time it was the start of a new initiative that's been in the works for about a year.

      Here's what the initiative is and what it means for students, parents, and the community.

      Things have been shaken up at the Early Childhood Center, but it may be something you applaud. Last year, the state of Illinois asked the the Early Childhood Center to put together a plan to take the Pre-K program to five days a week. Head Start is staying at four days a week. Staff worked all year to put a plan in place, and it was put into place today.

      "We have brand new busing, we had to do new schedules because instead of going three hours a day, they now go two and a half days, five days a week," says Julie Schuckman, the Director of Early Childhood in Quincy.

      Both programs serve three, four, and five year olds who aren't in kindergarten. Pre-K is based on risk factors, and Headstart is based on family income.

      "What this means for kids is a little more consistency. Five days a week versus four. Same curriculum, same quality learning opportunities. Basically, it's a change in schedule. The one downside is just one meal a day," adds Schuckman.

      Pre-K kids used to get breakfast and lunch, but since they are here less time, they now leave before lunch.

      The only cost increase has been because of the extra bussing, but Julie Schuckman says for the most part, the cost to take Pre-K to five days has pretty much been a wash. A lot of the changes affect staff more than anything.

      "Teachers not having shared planning periods, so we're really having to look at time to really plan together and really build the curriculum and teach kids. That collaborative time between teachers is so important in moving forward," says Schuckman.

      Schuckman says the staff really had to look at how things work on a daily basis. The staff came in over the summer to help with that, and they feel they have a great plan in place to make this whole thing work.

      This initiative is just in place for a year due to funding.

      However, Julie Schuckman says even more changes could come next year because of a national initiative.

      Soon, states will have to serve four year olds in Pre-K and three year olds for Headstart.

      Schuckman says the Early Childhood Center already offers both programs, so staff should be set up well for that change when it comes.