For the first time in 10 years, the Board of Education has started a formal conversation about moving to all-day kindergarten.
The discussion comes as school districts are faced with meeting more rigorous state standards for early education. The new expectations are part of a standardized set of national education standards known as the Common Core.
Board member Cathy Hellreich said the curriculum committee heard a presentation on the topic at its Nov. 12 meeting.
"There was consensus by board members that all-day kindergarten would probably be a good idea," Hellreich told the full board recently. "With the Common Core and what's being asked of our kindergartners, more time in the classroom would be beneficial."
Superintendent of Schools Greg Florio said the talks were in the early stages and that “a lot of hurdles" would need to be overcome before the district could seriously consider making the shift.
"The first step is to take a look to see if there is interest in the community," said Florio. He said a few parents have asked for all-day kindergarten but "not a groundswell."
Key among the obstacles are the cost and space constraints, said school officials. Full-day kindergarten would likely mean putting some kindergarten classrooms back into the district's four elementary schools.
Hellreich said it would take 16 classrooms of 16 students each to house Cheshire's approximately 250 kindergartners in a full-day setting, but there are only nine available classrooms at Darcey School, where district kindergartners now attend classes in half-day sessions.
Also, while an all-day program would save about $125,000 in transportation costs, the district would need to spend about $676,000 for more teachers, instructional aides, furniture and materials, Hellreich said.
Hellreich said the board hopes to survey parents, community members and teachers about the proposed change in January.
The last time the school board took a serious look at all-day kindergarten was about 10 years ago, Hellreich said. It dropped the idea because of a perceived lack of need and budget constraints.
Many school systems around the state already offer or are planning to offer all-day kindergarten. But Florio said the district's Connecticut
Mastery Test scores show Cheshire’s half-day program has not put students at a disadvantage.
"By the time our children are in fifth, sixth, or seventh grade they are at the very top scoring in the state," he said.