By KAITLYN NAPLES
Earlier this fall, the Bristol School District began researching full-day kindergarten and how feasible it would be to implement it in the city.
In the state, 76 percent of public school districts already offer full-day kindergarten, including several of the communities that surround Bristol.
After surveying parents, and having a committee of board members, school officials and teachers research statistics and findings, Superintendent of Schools Ellen Solek proposed to the board it implement a two-year rollout of full-day kindergarten. The two-year rollout would begin next summer, if approved, and be completed fully by the summer of 2016. Due to the limited classroom space for kindergarten program expansion, and expense to take on for a one-year program, Solek said it would be most feasible to adopt the two-year rollout program.
“The need for a district-wide full day kindergarten program in the Bristol Public Schools is imperative,” Solek said to the board last Wednesday evening before presenting the committee’s final report.
According to the full-day kindergarten report, the two-year rollout would give the district some extra time to plan and create the additional 11 classrooms that are needed for the program, as well as allow for the district to prepare to absorb the costs that will come with the two-year implementation. If the district were to approve a two-year transition, the cost would be a little over $1.3 million for each year, rather than a total of $2.6 million all at once.
The benefits of a full-day program allow for more learning and teaching for the school district’s youngest students, Solek said. She explained state curriculum standards have increased and are requiring much more of the youngsters than in years past. Some of the requirements include, but aren’t limited to: counting in sequence, categorizing objects and counting how many are in a group, place value in mathematics, geometry, group reading activities and research, and more.
“We would be taking the curriculum we have now and diving deeper into it, so the students experience and knowledge becomes richer, not broader,” Solek said, adding that a full day program would allow for the students to understand the different types of instruction.
For the parent survey, each question received 471 responses. While most of the responders said they did not have children who would be enrolled in full-day kindergarten, most of the responses were in favor of an all-day program, were future parents of full-day kindergarteners, and said their children were developmentally ready to enter into an all-day program.
Parent Steven Vastola said, while he is in favor of all-day kindergarten, he thinks it should be completed within one year. He said his daughter goes to full-day preschool right now and would like to see her go into a full-day kindergarten program as well.
On the contrary, parent of four Marla Schaerrer said she is opposed to the full-day kindergarten, and asked the board to consider the physical, emotional, and mental demands the program would put on the students. She said two of her children have already gone through the Bristol kindergarten program, and her two other children will be in it eventually. But she has seen the emotional fatigue the all day first grade program has brought on her child.
In addition to the surveys, the committee also did research on several studies and found that there were “greater academic short term gains for children enrolled in full-day kindergarten programs,” and that many of the full day programs are especially beneficial for children who are “economically disadvantaged.” Solek added 45 percent of Bristol’s school children are eligible for free/and or reduced lunches.
To read the complete findings, visit the Board of Education’s website at www.bristol.k12.ct.us.
School districts like New Britain, Plainville, Waterbury, West Hartford, and more already have a full-day kindergarten program. Southington also implemented its all-day kindergarten at the beginning of this year.