By Kathy Farren
Kindergarten may be an all day program in Yorkville by the fall of 2014.
Board of Education members heard a proposal at their meeting Monday night to increase kindergarten from half day to full day.
Although board members commented favorably on the proposal, they noted that it will depend on the availability of funding and space.
A committee of the district’s kindergarten teachers told the board the proposal would provide an additional 500 to 600 hours of instruction each year for kindergarten students. That would support the district’s goals of providing greater opportunity for students to achieve at the highest level and increasing the rigor of instruction. It would also provide more time for teachers to provide extra help to students who need it and make for an easier transition to first grade.
Assistant Superintendent Tim Shimp said “To go deeper takes more time.” Tracey Jackson, a kindergarten teacher at Grande Reserve Elementary School, said that, with half day kindergarten, teachers “can’t give children the thinking time to be successful.”
Sample schedules for the current half day program and a possible full day program show that there would be an added 20 minutes each day to allow time for teachers to devote to students who need extra help. Math instruction would increase from 30 to 60 minutes each day, reading time would increase from 80 minutes to 115 minutes, and there would be 40 minutes each day for science or social studies.
Bristol Bay kindergarten teacher Sandy Berge said research shows there are fewer student retentions and more positive feelings toward learning with all day kindergarten and it will allow at risk students time to catch up.
Jennifer Alice, also a kindergarten teacher at Bristol Bay, said the committee visited all day kindergarten classes in Plano, St. Charles, Naperville and Troy. They found a high level of parent and teacher satisfaction.
Yorkville Grade School kindergarten teacher Kris Avery said the committee surveyed parents of Yorkville pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade students and found most were in favor of all day kindergarten.
Berge said close to 500 surveys were returned and 78.9 percent were in favor of all day kindergarten. She said 57.4 percent said they would consider paying tuition or an extra fee for the all day program.
Shimp noted that the only negative comments mentioned students might not be socially ready for all day in class and some felt the district shouldn’t take on the extra expense.
Avery said kindergarten teachers hear from parents that their children spend less time in kindergarten than they did in pre-school. She also noted that the district sees a large influx of first grade students whose parents have sent them to private school for full day kindergarten.
Shimp pointed out that the proposal would require more teachers, but said some districts require a tuition payment for all day kindergarten.
Superintendent Dr. Scott Wakeley said his previous district, Genoa-Kingston, switched to all day kindergarten 10 years ago. The first year, 10 children opted to stay in a half day program. By the end of the year, only two were attending just a half day. In the second year, parents of just three students requested a half day program and, by October, they all wanted the full day kindergarten.
Alice said some of the kindergarten students themselves say they want to stay all day. Jackson said, “Their endurance is better than their parents think.”
Board member Dr. Robert Brenart said some studies show reduced costs for intervention programs later for students who have been in all day kindergarten.
Shimp said the district would need to decide whether to offer the program at a “kindergarten center” or at neighborhood schools. Either would likely require a change in attendance boundaries for district elementary schools. He said the district’s Citizens Advisory Committee is “chomping at the bit” to get to work and they could look at boundaries.
Board member Dr. Lynn Burks said, “The issue we don’t know about is funding. That could change substantially in June.” She mentioned uncertainty about the level of state funding for local schools and the likelihood that local districts will have to assume part of the cost of retired teacher pensions.
Board members will be asked to vote at their April 22 meeting to direct the committee to continue planning to begin offering an all day program for all kindergarten students in the fall of 2014. According to Jackson, they will look at space needs, curriculum, transportation requirements.
Published in the April 11, 2013 edition