Officials, community discuss full-day K

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Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin talks with parents and stakeholders more deeply about implementing full-day kindergarten in the district at Algonquin School in Prospect Jan. 16. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin talks with parents and stakeholders more deeply about implementing full-day kindergarten in the district at Algonquin School in Prospect Jan. 16. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

PROSPECT — The conversation on implementing full-day kindergarten in Region 16 continued last week as school officials took the discussion to the community.

About a dozen parents and teachers attended a forum last Friday led by Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin and Director of Curriculum Barbara Peck at Algonquin School to discuss full-day kindergarten.

The forum was the second one held by school officials last week — the first was Jan. 13 at Laurel Ledge School in Beacon Falls — and the discussion was informal.

Yamin said the conversions have focused on weighing the budgetary impact versus the educational benefit of full-day kindergarten.

Parents asked about the cost the cost of implementing a full-day program at the forum last week. Concerns over class sizes, staffing and how children would adapt to a longer school day were also expressed.

Parents also mentioned that the perception among some people in the community is that they will get to vote on full-day kindergarten.

Board of Education member Robert Hiscox, who attended the forum at Algonquin School, made it clear the board will vote on whether to implement full-day kindergarten. If the board approves the move, full-day kindergarten would be implemented in the 2015-16 school year, and the cost to do so would be included in the next school budget proposal. When the spending plan goes to a vote, he said, it may be perceived by some as a referendum on full-day kindergarten.

The financial impact of making the switch from half-day to full-day kindergarten is still being determined.

A full-day kindergarten planning committee has been reviewing the implementation of a full-day program. The committee is expected to give its report and recommendation to the school board at its Jan. 28 meeting. The financial impact is expected to be included in the report.

The Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, will be asked to take action on implementing full-day kindergarten at its Feb. 25 meeting.

The school board has been discussing going to full-day kindergarten for several years.

Those talks ramped up when the three-part building project was approved in 2011. The new Prospect Elementary School, which will replace Algonquin and Community schools, and the renovations to Laurel Ledge include space to expand to full-day kindergarten.

Yamin is a proponent of full-day kindergarten. He said he believes in the importance of early literacy and that a full-day program will help meet the needs of students and lead to higher performance.

At least one parent agreed.

Katie Reed, a Prospect resident who has two daughters in Region 16 schools, said she supports a full-day program even though her children are past that grade. Reed said that although cost is always an important factor, it’s important to weigh the benefits that students could gain from a full-day kindergarten program.

“I think it’s a great academic benefit for kids in the district, particularly when it’s being approached with such care to the needs of the children at that age,” Reed said. “I think the board would implement it in the way it needs to be to help kids not be too tired or disengaged, and it would help us as a school district to stay competitive and encourage 21st-century skills in a way that kids can have fun with.”

The Republican-American contributed to this article.