Friday, June 16, 2000
Parents support more full days for kindergarteners
The school is considering changing the structure of the kindergarten program to two full days and three half-days per week beginning in September rather than in January. Presently, kindergarten children attend five mornings per week until January when they begin staying two afternoons in addition.
About 25 parents of young children aired their opinions on extending the kindergarten program at a public hearing with the Carlisle School Committee on June 6. Most of the parents supported the change, though a few did not. Most of the parents said they were willing to pay the proposed $90 fee that would cover the cost of the extra time, though some said that fees for public education are inappropriate.
Assistant Principal Terry Farwell presented the proposal of the kindergarten task force. Made up of kindergarten teachers and parents, the group had discussed and explored options over the past year. Initially, there was disagreement within the group as to the best structure, Farwell said. Some wanted to go to five full days, while others were happy with the status quo. After further research and discussion, they came to the agreement that this proposal, two full days and three half-days all year, was the best, she said.
The additional cost of this program would be about $8,000 per year. Because of the tight budget, the change was not discussed as a possibility earlier this spring. When the school later learned that assessing a fee for extended kindergarten programs was permitted, according to the state department of education, the plan was resurrected with a $90 fee attached to it. Financial assistance would be provided to those in need, Farwell added.
The purpose of the additional time would be to relax the pace of the kindergarten experience by allowing larger blocks of instructional time and greater flexibility in scheduling, Farwell said. There is no plan to add curriculum content, just to cover the existing curriculum more slowly, with fewer transitions. It also allows specials, such as art and music, to be scheduled in the afternoon, keeping the prime morning time open for academics. The new plan would also eliminate the January transition period, with just one big transition in September.
School committee members were concerned about the impact on the rest of the school. According to Farwell and Principal Andy Goyer, the biggest impact would be on lunch. Currently, some classes are eating cold lunches in their classrooms on the days that the kindergarten stays for lunch. However, Goyer said that with the addition of some new, more compact tables and some creative scheduling, he was sure they could fit everyone into the dining room next year.
Support for the plan
Several parents whose children had already been through kindergarten said that they noticed a positive difference when the class time increased in January. They supported starting the full days in September. Shawnee Baker said that with more time, transitions went better and the class ran more smoothly. Kris Tocci agreed that when all the days were short, it seemed like the kids were being rushed through the day, but with the extra time after January, things seemed better.
Several other parents who had been involved with the task force or gone to a task force meeting had also been convinced that extending the day would benefit the children. Laura Schofield said that research showed that more time for kindergarten is good, the teachers recommended it, and she hoped that the logistics could be worked out and the plan implemented. Muggsie Rocco changed her mind and said she now supports the plan after attending a task force meeting. She thought that one big transition in September would be better than having a second one in January, too.
On the other side, were several parents who were against extending the days. Nicole Bloomfield said she liked having afternoons free to do other things with her children. Liz Spatola thought that the transition from pre-school to kindergarten in September was enough of a change without adding extended days. Andi Gettys said that many young kids are tired at the end of a long day. She thought they would be more ready to stay longer in January. She also asked why the kindergarten was so high-pressure.
Discussion of the fee
After the pros and cons of the extended days were discussed, Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson expressed surprise that no one had voiced opposition to the proposed fee yet. She said that she does not like the fee, but without it, there could be no extended program. She called it a "terrible dilemma." Given the invitation, opposition to the fee surfaced.
Parents, who were opposed to the fee on principle, still supported the proposed extended kindergarten program. Caren Ponty did not like the precedent of paying fees for public school. David Kolstad said it was against the spirit of public education to privatize portions of it. Molly Sorrows wanted to convince the rest of the town to support the program financially, suggesting waiting a year for implementation, if necessary. Rich Coleman and Sharyl Stropkay both wanted to start the new program this year with the fee, but put it in the budget for next year.
Still, other parents had no problem with the concept of a fee for an enhanced program. Ann Schad said, "The fee doesn't bother me a bit." Michelle Sandler agreed that $90 was "a small price to pay for better education." Several other parents also supported the fee.
After listening to all of the opinions at the hearing, the superintendent will make a recommendation on the proposed program at the next school committee meeting on June 20. The CSC will then discuss and vote on whether to implement the new program and the fee.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito