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Study Will Poll Parents on All-Day Kindergarten Program

School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. said district administrators will seek input from parents of incoming kindergarteners during a series in late January, but the board may have to make a financial decision beforehand.

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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Michelle Brennan January 11, 2013 at 10:02 PM
All parents of older children previously had kindergarteners complete the 2.5 hour program. We know from experience what these kids can handle and how they learn. I appreciate all hard working parents, myself included, but this is about the kids and funding. According to recently published information in the Waterbury Republican Southington students have a majority 'Maintain' rating in terms of standardized testing. Granted, tests do not tell the whole story but they are an indication of how the 1/2 day program has been working in the past. Just fine! Since kindergarten is not mandated, this program will serve to potentially burnout students and it is not necessary. The money will come from other integral parts if the budget and all if the students will feel it. LR... Wait until you child had 28+ students in a class. Not being able to get their materials unpacked in a reasonable timeframe will seem like a dream. The money has to come from somewhere, and I'm just being realistic. Based on developmental needs, finances, and how well our students are already faring in the eyes of the state.... A full day program across the board is unnecessary. Keep the 1/2 day program in place and keep the interventional full day program for those students in need of additional help.
LR January 12, 2013 at 01:58 AM
As I said before its a different generation! Since its not mandated then those parents that want 1/2 day kindergarten don't have to send their children! They can pay for a half day preschool class then send them directly to first grade! Why shoved everything into 2.5 hrs when they can have a positive and non rushed day in 7hrs. For what I pay for preschool and for what most working parents pay for full time preschool, I could pay 3+ years of taxes!
Tony Casale January 12, 2013 at 02:56 AM
you have just made the argument for everyone opposed to this,"for what I pay" you for your children, those opposed would say, " why should I pay for your children, why should i carry the burden of easing your taxes for 3 years" it must be the entire community that gets a say, in the end, will you want to pay eight years from now when it has no impact on you, be honest
Peter G January 12, 2013 at 12:07 PM
So really what you're saying, and it has been my point since the subject first came up, is that this is a scam on the taxpayers. It has nothing to do with advancing the education of tots; it has everything to do with other people supporting your daycare needs. Frankly that's entitlement with a capital "E." I don't know what your situation is, having to work 60 hours per week since you kid was 8 weeks old, but I would suspect it is from poor choices you've made. Frankly, 2.5 hours has done quite well since the public school system started so I don't know why your genius needs more time than that. They are in fact not there to learn pre-calculus; they are there to get socialization, transition and some basic learning. I suggest you look to getting your own life straightened out before we build an entire misinformed program around supporting it. But thanks for testifying to the obvious, that all-day kindergarten does nothing for the kids -- it just subsidizes families like yours with kids in all-day daycare!
Peter G January 12, 2013 at 12:08 PM
Tony, you hit the nail on the head.

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