REGION 16 — After years of discussing full-day kindergarten, the Region 16 Board of Education took the plunge last week.
The board, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, unanimously approved implementing a full-day kindergarten program at its Feb. 25 meeting.
The full-day program will begin in the 2015-16 school year. A full-day program expands the school day from two hours and 45 minutes to six and half hours for kindergarten students.
Board Chair Donna Cullen said full-day kindergarten and improving academic achievement across the board in the district go hand in hand.
“I think if you can give them a good start it leads to a great finish,” Cullen said.
The discussion of moving to full-day kindergarten heated up when the three-part school building project was approved in 2011. The new Prospect Elementary School, which will replace Algonquin and Community schools, and the renovations being done at Laurel Ledge School in Beacon Falls include space to expand to full-day kindergarten.
A full-day kindergarten planning committee was formed early last year to review implementing the program in Region 16. The committee recommended making the move to full-day kindergarten to the board in January.
The discussion amongst the board last week was not on the merits of full-day kindergarten, but rather the wording of the motion.
The wording of the original motion read, “… approval of full-day kindergarten program in Region 16 schools for 2015-2016.”
Vice Chair Priscilla Cretella expressed concerns that having “2015-2016” in the motion made it appear that the program is only for the one year. She said full-day kindergarten is a huge commitment and something the board has to plan for each year moving forward.
“If we change the way we’re going to do (kindergarten), that is a commitment we’re making,” Cretella said. “That’s not going to be on the cutting board.”
Board members agreed.
Board member Robert Hiscox said the intent is to have full-day kindergarten moving forward. He agreed that it’s an annual commitment that starts with the 2015-16 school year.
The motion was amended to remove “2015-2016.”
Implementing full-day kindergarten drew mostly support from parents who addressed the board last week.
Michelle White of Prospect said she used to teach full-day kindergarten. She said there’s not enough time in a half-day program to teach everything necessary.
“The things that I can do in that classroom were just boundless compared to a half-day program,” White said.
Dina Topeu and Karima Jackson both said they moved to Prospect with their families about two years ago.
Topeu said one of the reasons her family chose to move to Prospect was the potential of full-day kindergarten.
Jackson said her family chose Prospect because of the community and the school system. She has two daughters, one who attended full-day kindergarten at a magnet school in Waterbury last year and the other is going into preschool. She spoke highly of the impact a full-day program had on her daughter.
“You can’t fit all they need to learn in a day into two or three hours,” Jackson said.
Beacon Falls resident Dino Verrelli, who also owns a business in the town, said he is not opposed to full-day kindergarten. He’s more concerned about the impact full-day kindergarten will have on taxes and the return on the investment. He felt the money should be spent to improve academics in the older grades.
“I’m not opposed to spending money,” he said. “I think full-day (kindergarten) is a great idea. I guess I’m looking for better return on my investment as a business owner and as a parent with the investment that we’re making in the region.”
Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said he also received 13 emails from the public on full-day kindergarten, three against it and 10 in favor of the program.