LEWISTON — Caylynn Nilsson, 4, and her Longley school classmates are nap rebels.

As she played games last week, Caylynn explained why she rejected rest time in class.

“I like to stay awake,” she said.

She has lots of company.

From September through January, Longley Elementary School preschoolers protested naps to the point that the school applied for a “nap waiver.

The state Department of Health and Human Services granted the waiver.

Establishment, 0; Longley preschoolers, 1.

The waiver means their school day is from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. instead of 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., without having to take a nap.

Many pre-kindergartens in public schools are half-day sessions, but Longley started daylong sessions last fall after winning a big grant to expand preschool to boost student learning.

Partnering with Androscoggin Head Start, Longley started holding three daylong pre-kindergarten classes at the school, one at the nearby Head Start.

“Overall the goal is to make sure when they leave pre-K and head to kindergarten, they’re ready,” Principal Kristie Clark said.

The four-year $1.35 million federal grant came from the Maine Department of Education and U.S. Department of Education.

State regulations dictate if pre-kindergarten students attend school for six hours, they need one hour of rest.

The 4-year-olds at Longley disagreed.

Before getting the nap waiver, “it was stressful,” teacher Allison Smith said.

At nap time, the mats were pulled out. The lights were turned off. Shades were drawn. Little ones lay down, “but they weren’t settling down,” Smith said. “They put up a fight about it.”

Some took naps, but most weren’t interested, teacher Monica Miller said.

“We noticed at lunch, kids’ behavior would change because they were anticipating what was coming next,” Miller said. “Some acted out. Some took forever to eat lunch and said, ‘I’m not done.’”

One preschooler said he couldn’t sleep.

“I wasn’t tired,” he said. “I wanted to play.”

Another 4-year-old said she preferred playing at the water table to napping.

Miller understands.

“When you think of school, you don’t think of naps,” she said.

Teachers concluded that the rest time wasn’t productive. After talking to the principal, the school applied for a waiver.

The days without naps started Jan. 4.

“When we told them there would be no more naps, they were so excited, they did a countdown,” Smith said. “Every day they said, ‘Four more days. Three more days. Two more days.’”

With the first half of the school year over, Longley preschoolers are comfortable in the school setting, Miller said.

“They see the teachers,” she said. “We walk through the school. They’re taught language skills, how to interact with peers, how to sit, ride the bus. School readiness is key.”

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Number of pre-kindergartners in Maine public schools

2010-11: 3,605 students

2015-16: 5,135 students

 


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