When the Southington Board of Education opened up their meeting to public comment Thursday evening, a variety of parents, teachers and education professionals took to the podium to request the board seriously consider the implementation of an all-day kindergarten program.
It’s a topic that Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski said members have heard a lot of opinions over, both from those for and against a change to all-day kindergarten, but ultimately the fate of a program could lie in the hands of those immediately impacted by a change – the parents of incoming kindergarten students.
School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. said Thursday that when the district holds their sessions for parents of incoming kindergarteners at the end of the month, they will seek the input of parents as to whether they favor a half-day or all-day program.
“We will take a more formal look at the community’s desire during a conversation with parents on Jan. 28 and Jan. 30 when we invite incoming kindergarten parents for an informational evening,” he said. “It will help us solidify information in regard to parents and what they would request.”
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There’s just one catch. The board may be forced to make a financial decision before the results of the study are returned.
The district’s decision to explore implementing an all-day program has captured the attention of parents throughout town, with many voicing their opinions both for and against the program during several public information sessions, through blogs such as those presented on Patch by Lakshmi Frechette and Michelle Slimak, and at previous Board of Education meetings.
Click the links provided to read each of the blogs presented.
On Thursday, local educators and parents made one more push to promote the benefits of having full-day instruction.
Lindsay Veronneau, a kindergarten teacher who previously worked as a second-grade teacher in Southington, said that when she was working with a full-day program, she would plan around the curriculum and be able to extend lessons as necessary.
Right now to meet the curriculum in kindergarten, she said there is no room in the 2.5 hour instruction period to make adjustments.
“One huge difference is time. There’s just not enough to cover what we need to,” she said. “We are moving quickly between whole group lessons and stations. If (the district) chose to go, I know it would be the best choice for our students. There’s no more work being added, just more time.”
Board members, including Goralski, have asked in the past for information to justify the costs – something the board will have to discuss in the next two weeks as the annual budget process begins.
According to Sherri-Lin DiNello, Director of Business and Finance, the cost to implement the program as new would have been $1.08 million, but steps have already been taken to reduce the cost. By shuffling staff members and using existing equipment and space, as well as eliminating twice a day bus routes, DiNello said during a November Board of Education meeting that the program would cost $396,411 in the first year.
Staff said $143,545 of which would be a one-time expenditure, leaving an annual cost of $252,866 annually for salary and benefits, supplies and all other necessities after the 2013-14 school year.
Erardi told the board Thursday that while the best information will come directly from parents during the informational sessions, he is already in the process of putting together a more select sample from parents checking in about the sessions to get an idea of what to expect.
“It will be tricky to get detailed numbers of what parents want before those two dates, but I will look to offer the best information we have (for the budget meetings),” Erardi said. “I will come back with additional information regarding their choice.”
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