Parents Seek Full-Day Kindergarten

By on January 30, 2012

A group of 20 Verona parents came to the Board of Education meeting last Tuesday to appeal for the creation of a full-day kindergarten program.

Although it was not scheduled as a specific agenda item, parent proponents made their case when the meeting was opened to public discussion. Crystal Bichalski spoke on behalf of the group, citing the benefits of a full-day program as providing more educational and developmental opportunities than other kinds of child care, easing the transition to first grade by including lunch and recess, increasing time spent on the curriculum that is currently jammed into four hours, providing teachers with more time for one-on-one instruction, scoring better on standardized tests, and fostering social skills with more interaction. Charity Dacey and Stacey Perry also shared their sentiments for making the change. This group of parents is taking full advantage of modern communications tools to win support, setting up a Facebook page called Full-Day-K-For-Verona-NJ.

While Verona public schools have never had a full-day kindergarten, the question returns to the BOE agenda regularly enough that the Board has dubbed it the “Full-Day Kindergarten Comet.” BOE President John Quattrocchi addressed the group’s concerns, noting that, to have a full-day kindergarten program, Verona would have to stretch an already tight budget. Quattrocchi said that running a full-day program would come with a six-figure price tag costing about $150,000 annually or $30 per taxpayer. With school budget increases capped at 2% under New Jersey law, the Board would likely have to cut into other programs to accommodate an extra cost even that small. And even if the money is found, there may be a problem of space: The kindergarten class that will enter Verona schools in the fall of this year is rumored to be so large in some areas of town that some children may not be able to attend the school closest to their home.

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(Verona is not without options, however, for those who need full-day school. Both Our Lady of the Lake School and Community Montessori Academy have full-day kindergartens;  The Children’s House has an afternoon “enrichment” program. The Montclair YMCA operates an extended care program in the afternoons at the elementary schools.)

Despite the added cost and the space constraints, the BOE made it known that Verona’s new superintendent, Steven A. Forte, has been reviewing the issues around the current four-hour kindergarten session in Verona’s public schools and the push to extend those hours. There is even consideration for a program similar to the one now operating in Roseland district, where kindergarten students go to school from 8:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. from September to December, and then a step up to a full day–8:45 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.–for the rest of the school year. An approach like this could cost Verona less, but just how much less has not been specified.

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If Verona is going to consider going over the budget cap to fun a full-day kindergarten, this could be the year to do it.  Governor Christie recently signed a law that enables the BOE to move the Board’s  annual election to November from April. If the Board seeks a referendum to exceed the cap on that ballot it would only need a simple majority rather than the 60% Yes vote needed for second questions on previous ballots.

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7 Comments

  1. Sarah

    January 30, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Is Kindergarten even mandated by the State? Of course I would love full day Kindergarten. As a working parent, I would save a lot of money. Yet, what ever happened to just plain old unstructured play? In countries such as Finland that supposedly out-score us on tests, school doesn’t start until 7. Test scores? Don’t get caught in that trap. The companies that create and publish them are making a lot of money out of all of this. That is another story. Children who read first aren’t the first ones to go to Harvard. If a child has a difficult time transitioning to first grade, maybe they have other special needs.

  2. kathleen

    January 30, 2012 at 11:14 am

    When Mr. Kim was here there was a study done by a task force comprised of Verona parents and teachers. The result was a resounding need for full day kindergarten. The board instead chose to create a “pay to play” PM Enrichment program – effectively discounting the research of the task force. While I would have benefited from the PM enrichment program I spoke out against it on principle. I wish these parents luck. Quick observation: Verona is set up to handle full day kindergarten. There is one teacher per class and each teacher has his/her own classroom. Verona has 3/4 day kindergarten – the fight will be how to prove the added benefit of having the children in school from 12:15 to 2:45 less the lunch/recess period.

  3. Cameron Barrett

    January 30, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    I fully support this. I feel our kindergarteners are getting shafted by not being in school for the full day.

  4. Marissa

    January 30, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I think full day k makes sense for the children and the family as a whole. Children are more then ready at the age of six to handle a regular school day. Most children have either been in private full day or half day learning centers for at least 2-3 yrs prior to Kindergarten so a full day is the natural progression at this stage. A full day Kindergarten also helps the family. With the economy in the state it is most households require 2 working parents. A full day Kindergarten program would enable mothers to enter or reenter the workforce or give parents who have been paying exorbitant “rent” like fees for child care a break. With the extra cash in our pockets we can stimulate the economy by spending some money on things like home repairs. Full day K is a win win situation.

  5. Lisa

    January 30, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    @Sarah, as per the State of New Jersey Dept. of Education website:

    Q. Is kindergarten mandatory in New Jersey?

    A. Kindergarten is not required under state law with the exception of certain school districts mandated to offer kindergarten due to high concentrations of lower-income families. However, most school districts provide at least half-day kindergarten for five-year-old students.

    There is no evidence of long term academic benefits. Most districts that mandate full day kindergarten are those of lower income and “at risk” students. Verona’s 3/4 day is perfect. It allows for plenty of instructional time as well as an afternoon to partake in unstructured and equally important play time. Imposing a 30 plus hour ‘work week’ on a five year old is unnecessary. There are full time options available for those who wish to utilize them.

  6. Sarah

    January 31, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Thank you Lisa. I agree. Even though I would benefit financially for one year as I still have one more child at home, I would be paying for it the rest of my years here in Verona. My taxes are already at $15,100. I can’t keep up with $30.00 here and $100.00 here each year. I enjoy letting my youngest PLAY.

  7. Cameron Barrett

    January 31, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I do feel the teachers are doing a fantastic job considering the limited resources and time dedicated to the kindergarten classes.

    Some students will do much better with a full-day class and others do just fine with the current three-quarter day class.

    It does bother me a bit that we’re paying such high taxes, with a large percentage going towards the school budget, and yet our kids are not getting the benefit of a full-day kindergarten.

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