Full Day K Makes Case For Kindergarten Changes

By on October 10, 2012

Proponents of a plan to switch Verona’s kindergarten from half day to full day through a ballot initiative in November addressed the Board of Education at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Crystal Bichalski, one of the co-founders of  Full Day K For Verona NJ, talked about the group’s efforts to rally support for a Yes vote on the November 6 election, from a Facebook page to signs on lawns and in businesses around town. She noted that the group has been trying to sway voters by focusing on five key points, from the added instructional time to what they view as the minimal additional cost for the program. If approved by voters, Verona’s full-day kindergarten program would follow the so-called Roseland model: Kindergarten students would have a half-day program for September  through December, and then a full-day for the rest of the school year.

Full Day K believes that the added in-class time–two hours and fifteen minutes–would provide additional time for socialization and work on stricter state-mandated curriculum standards. “In 2012, kindergarten is the new first grade,” said Bichalski. The group says that prospective kindergarten students are ready for a long day because they have spent time in pre-school.  The group has pegged the additional cost of the program at $25 annually per Verona household, which they note in their handout is the equivalent of two movie tickets and popcorn, or two pizzas. “All of these things don’t have nearly the same long-lasting benefits on our children, town and education system,” Bichalski added.

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But the sparse audience at the BOE meeting seemed to contain as many doubters of the plan as supporters. Lisa Freschi noted that full-day kindergarten is not mandated by the state, and that there are many private full-day programs available to Verona parents, like that at Our Lady of the Lake school. Michele Bernardino, who noted that she was not speaking as someone for or against the plan, worried about the impact of the added cost on SCA fundraising. “It’s $25 for year one, but it’s only going to go up.” And Liz Facey, who had listened to the BOE’s reports that evening on rising legal costs and buildings and grounds repairs, said she thought any extra spending should go elsewhere. “Money should be spent at the high school,” she said. “There are so many other ways that money can be spent.”

Full Day K supporter Laura Morowitz noted that, while full day kindergarten is not state-mandated, 76% of New Jersey towns have such a program, including all of Verona’s neighbors except Caldwell. “I think there is a reason why 76% of the towns have full day kindergarten,” she said.

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Verona Superintendent Steven A. Forte said that, if implemented, the full day kindergarten would begin in January 2013 using the current curriculum. He said the extra afternoon time would likely be used for so-called center time, which often feature hands-on work by students independently or in small groups. The kindergarten curriculum would be revamped for the 2013-2014 school year.

The vote on full day kindergarten will be on the ballot with the general election on Tuesday, November 6. What do you think of full day kindergarten? Take the poll.

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17 Comments

  1. Jackie

    October 10, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Once you factor in a 45 minute lunch period, it’s not 2 hours and 15 minutes. It’s an hour and a half of instructional time. Just not enough bang for the buck in my opinion. Especially, considering that the studies show any gains of a full day kindergarten program are lost by middle school.

  2. steve foster

    October 10, 2012 at 11:14 am

    No one over 25 had to have a full day kindegarden and they don’t seem to be educationally disadvantaged. The tax rate in Verona is out of sight. We need to cut some programs, not add more. While I understand that there are a lot of households where both parents work, it seems to me that this is just another baby sitting feature.

  3. Kristen Mautone

    October 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    I would love to understand why people think that having our children go to school is a form of babysitting? I am a work from home mother and I am totally for full day and the people who are mainly running this whole campaign are all stay at home moms so please don’t think that this is a way for us to get free child care! I am more concerned of my child having enough time to learn the necessary requirements to have them fully ready for 1st grade. Yes, anyone over 25 didn’t have a full day program but that was over 30 years ago. I don’t remember in Kindergarten being able to use a computer, cell phone, IPAD, Leapfrog, Kindle, etc. My 17 month of son already knows how to use an IPAD!! So please let’s not make this about babysitting and let’s make this about our children and their future!

  4. Julia

    October 10, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    My 20 month old daughter has been in school since she was 3 months old. She knows all of her colors, shapes and can say three word sentences, making her intentions very clear. She is in school from 9-6 M-F. I value the education and socialization she is receiving at such a young age. However, I feel that my child who will start kindergarten in Verona in 2016 will be at a disadvantage if she is forced to spend half her time learning, and the other half being “babysat” in aftercare. At five, kids are much more ready for structured learning then we were. I started school when I was four, in 1980, and it was 2-3 hours long. I had no idea what I was in for! My children will be way better prepared for school than I was. Vote YES on Full Day K!

  5. katie fouts

    October 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Im not sure why residents want Verona to stay in the dark ages. If I was moving to town with young children I would ask if they have full day kindergarden because this is what is happening everywhere. I am all for cutting taxes as Verona’s taxes are becoming unstainable but full day kindergarden is a benefit for house values. It is short sighted to think otherwise.

  6. Lisa

    October 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    There are many full day options available to families at their own expense. Experiential learning and unstructured time is equally as important as structured classroom time. The current 4 hour format offers the best of both worlds.

    We are raising a generation of children who will not know what to do with free time~ according to the Full Day advocates, “most kids have been in full day pre-school” and day care for years. . . .how are children supposed to learn how to navigate the world when they are not given the opportunity to be active participants?

    How would you feel if your work day just got extended by 2.5 hours your your “socialization” time was in your company’s cafeteria? I don’t think you’d like it~ why would a 5 year old?

  7. Julia

    October 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Verona is the only school district handled by the Montclair Y aftercare program with an “Extended Kindergarten program”. Montclair, Cedar Grove and Bloomfield do not require this as they already have full day programs. For those Verona parents who require the program, they will spend an additional $2750/year over parents in other towns! Does this make our town competitively attractive to new home buyers with small children? VOTE YES ON FULL DAY K!

  8. Laura Morowitz

    October 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Children with two working parents will not be having “unstructured” time at home, but will be in aftercare which is certainly structured, although far less educational. With the exception of OLL (which is not appropriate for all families), there are not many options for full day in our town that would not require children to change locations, placing a stress on them.
    I also don’t understand how children are not “active participants” in kindergarten?! They are interacting with the peers, with teachers, staff members etc. That is one of the most valuable aspects of kindergarten.
    As the children would be home by 3:00, they are hardly deprived of free time or unstructured play.
    In regard to the idea that those of us older than 25 are fine despite not having full-day kindergarten, there are SO many things we did not have, and yet I hardly think we want our children to go without them. Very few of us had SAT tutoring, and yet most of us plan to give our children this advantage, right? I did not have access to online resources or textbooks, but I want my children to–in fact they must. If we adopt that attitude, my high school child would be doing her homework right now on a typewriter, my middleschooler would be making a copy of her worksheet with carbon paper instead of our printer, and my pre-schooler would be bouncing around the front seat on my lap instead of sitting in a car seat!

  9. Diana

    October 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    There are many excellent reasons for students to be in Full Day Kindergarten programs but now is not the time. Taxes are increasing, property values are decreasing, people are out of work, etc…saying that the cost is equal to that of pizza and movies is insulting to those who already can not afford those things. Additionally, tax payers should be aware that taxes will not only increase to pay for this program but there will be costs associated with adding that money to the tax bills, reprinting and remailing adjusted tax bills to every tax payer. That will cost thousands and will further increase taxes.

    As a side note, children who are in programs from young ages from 9-6 are not in “school” they are in daycare. There is a BIG difference. While some of their day is structured and educational; a large part of it is unstructured, rest/naptime, playtime, meal and snack time. I know-my kids did it too. Nothing wrong with it but it’s not school and just beacuse children are in long hour daycare centers does not entitle them to FDK.

    As for comparing Verona to other districts, yes, many already provide FDK. Many also only provide HALF DAY, as your example of Caldwell does. Verona’s extended day provides much more benefit than two and a half hours. I wonder how many of the 25% that do not have FDK have a TRUE half day not Extended Day like Verona.

  10. Sarah

    October 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    We value the education and socialization that our children are able to have through us. Unstructured free time is priceless. We are so glad that even as full time working parents, we are able to make the financial sacrifice to have them stay home with our sitter and attend preschool part-time. Why is it all about the state test? Why don’t parents just opt our of it? As our taxes go up every year, young families won’t even look at our home. The taxes are unaffordable today. We pay double the average property tax. For us, that means at least $50.00 this year, and $100.00 next year. When will it end? We don’t go to the movies or get pizza. (That’s one small way we can afford our fabulous sitter.) My Mom learned to use her I-pad in about 15 minutes; she is 80 years old. Let’s keep tax increases at zero.

  11. Doreen

    October 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    I am actually quite surprised to the reaction of this issue. What a mean-spirited comment – “baby sitting feature”. Even if someone wanted a full day program because they didn’t want their 5 year old in aftercare longer than they were in school, could you honestly blame them? With the amount of extracurricular activities offered these days beginning way before Kindergarten, I don’t think many kids are left to figure out how to “navigate their free time” anymore. Times have changed, as have kids. We realize our kids are capable of more, so we expect more. However we need to keep in mind, not all kids go to pre-school, or academic-based pre-schools, so I can’t imagine the challenge Kindergarten teachers must face trying to deal with kids who are completely new to school, with large classes, and an academic standard to uphold all in 4 hours! Then the First grade teachers must deal with kids who are now trying to adapt to a full day schedule (some for the first time ever), while keeping kids who are accustomed to it – challenged…all the while trying to get them all to the expected academic standard by the end of the year. Kindergarten, First, Second grade are formative learning years – if kids don’t learn to read, they won’t be able to read to learn. Perhaps those against the full day Kindergarten just aren’t worried about their kid slipping through the cracks. Perhaps their kids have already grown up. Maybe they don’t have kids at all. But as a community, I would hope we would have compassion for all children and families in this town, and do our best to help them all succeed as they begin their academic journeys. I guarantee, it will benefit us all in the long run.

  12. Bart

    October 11, 2012 at 12:53 am

    I’m not a parent, and I don’t have any kids, but I’ve been following this campaign over the last few weeks, as I do have a 2 year old nephew that lives in Verona. While I am for the FDK program, I find it very shocking how divided people are over this topic. Everyone seems to be either strongly for it, or strongly against it. A lot of the comments here seem to be emotionally driven, however I do think that a few points from each side should be explored further. While I disagree that a $25 tax increase will become a real burden to any one family, it would be good to know if this accounts for all of the expenses associated with the prolonged FDK program. Will this cover all of the administrative costs that the town might face, and is this a one-time flat increase, or should the residents expect additional increases to maintain the FDK program in the years to come? The next logical question would be to ask what real benefit will the extra 2.5 hours give the children attending FDK. Will this time be used for play, or will kids learn something beneficial, like how to eat healthy, so they don’t become obese by the time they are teenagers. This might be best answered by the Kindergarten teachers, as their opinion should be of great value in this discussion. Do they feel they need more time to fully prepare these kids for first grade? If the answer is yes, then this discussion should end right here, as parents should trust that these teachers have their best intention to prepare each class for the next level of education. One thing we should all agree on is that the international community has been gaining on the skill levels of the US workforce, and we should push the future generation now more than ever, so they can continue to be competitive and have an easier go at it once they are ready to join the workforce. Invest in education now, for a brighter future tomorrow.

  13. Cheryl

    October 11, 2012 at 7:50 am

    I have 2 children still in elementary and 1 child in middle school. They were more than adequately prepared for first grade with the four hour kindergarten. There is increased instructional time because of the shortened day. The kids are not missing out academically! I cannot believe this is being considered while the schools continue to cut the gifted and talented programs to the point where they are almost nonexistent. What a waste of monies, time, and resources.

  14. Steve

    October 12, 2012 at 9:43 am

    A K-12 Verona education is about 12,700 hours. This takes in account for lunch hour. If you add full day K, you add about 400 hours to school career of a child. In the end, the addition accounts for 0.03% more education time. My children are long past this point, they didn’t suffer. If your doing it to allow more parent time for yourself, well everyone before you worked around this schedule, you can too. I can’t beleive it will only be $25 more in taxes, nothing with the word tax in it ever works out the way it’s layed out. My vote, NO!

  15. Lisa

    October 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Laura M. As per your statement from the Board meeting regarding the fact that you’ve never seen a study that said FDK was ‘bad’ for children, you might be interested in the findings and implication sections of the Rand Corporations study on kindergarten: http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9232/index1.html

  16. Victor Lugo

    October 28, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    A 4-5 year old today is identical to one from a generation ago, at least with respect to cognitive ability. The argument that they are somehow capable of more is weak at best. Technological advances have certainly been made, which enhance learning and perhaps make it more efficient. But as others have pointed out in this thread and others, Verona’s kindergarteners haven’t shown any indication of falling behind academically.

    I can’t comprehend how programs in the middle & high schools – which is where consequential learning occurs – are being curtailed/consolidated, while we’re simultaneously being asked to perpetually increase our tax bill so that our little ones can color, nap, and play more. As intelligent as they may be, the average kindergartener is just not going to grasp differential equations if we add 1.5 hours to their day. So please don’t ask to increase my taxes while the # of AP classes, my income, and our property prices are stagnating.

  17. Laura

    October 28, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Lisa: The study you cite does claim that full day kindergarten is negatively associated with math scores. I would find the research much more compelling if they attempted to explain this odd finding: how can a longer school day harm math comprehension? I wish the authors had made an attempt to offer a logical explanation for this. In addition, the authors offer this caveat to their conclusions: “However, the authors warn that these findings should be interpreted carefully because they have not accounted for potential self-selection bias; so it is possible that some of the findings are driven by unobserved characteristics.”
    For some more recent conclusions on the benefits of full day kindergarten, here is a recent article about Mountainside N.J., which discusses academic benefits and concludes with the chief school administrator of Mountainside School District noting: “The question of whether to keep a full-day program periodically comes up, Lubarsky said, especially from people who don’t have children in the schools. “We put it out there that it keeps our district strong and high achieving, and housing prices high and the real estate market strong. It makes people want to move into our district,” she said.

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