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Full-day kindergarten draws support in BH-BL survey

Results presented at forum

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
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A majority of people seem to be in favor of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School expanding to full-day kindergarten for all students.

More than 70 percent of the nearly 500 who completed an online survey endorsed the change, 17 percent were in favor of keeping the current half-day format, 9 percent were in favor of a transitional option and 17 percent were not sure.

School officials presented the results at a forum Monday at O’Rourke Middle School. About 150 people attended the forum in person and another 50 watched it online, according to school officials.

The district is considering making the change to full-day kindergarten as it faces a decline in enrollment and would qualify for $700,000 in one-time state aid.

The district currently offers an extended kindergarten program for about 30 students who need to boost their literacy skills.

In addition to the full- and half-day options, the district has proposed a third “transitional” option that would start the year off as half day and allow parents to pick up their children before lunch until Oct. 15 or Dec. 2, and then the program would become full day for everyone.

Teachers expressed support for full-day kindergarten. Teacher Kris Gregory said the new Common Core curriculum has raised expectations for what students should be learning in math and English. For example, in kindergarten students are learning about math problems as equations such as 6 = 4 + 2.

“It’s a challenge to achieve our goals within the 21⁄2-hour time frame,” Gregory said.

Full-day kindergarten would last six hours and 15 minutes. Gregory said there would be plenty of time for fun activities in addition to covering the material.

“There will definitely be down time incorporated in a schedule for full-day kindergarten. We would have to look at the needs of our children in front of us,” she said.

Switching to full-day kindergarten would cost the district $21,000 more in the 2013-2014 school year than keeping the current half-day program.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Chris Abdoo said that going to a full day would mean hiring additional teachers but it would eliminate the need for a mid-day bus run, which would save about $88,000 in bus driver salaries and $101,000 in fuel costs.

The cost of kindergarten this year is $582,500. Maintaining the existing half-day program would cost $552,500 compared with $573,576 for full day.

There is space to accommodate the additional students. Charlton Heights Elementary School Principal Tim Sinnenberg said the district could accommodate nine sections of full-day kindergarten with three each in Pashley, Stevens and Charlton Heights elementary schools. If enrollment grows, there is space for one or two additional classes in Stevens and Pashley. At Charlton Heights, a computer lab would have to be converted into a kindergarten classroom with students having access to laptops in the classrooms.

Resident John Kelch asked why there wasn’t a fourth option — letting parents request full-day kindergarten and keeping a half day option for others.

“Some parents prefer to keep their kids at home for half the day or aren’t ready for a full-day program,” he said.

Patti DeMarle, a stay-at-home mother, favored either half day or transition. She worried that parents would be shortchanged quality time with their children.

“I’d like to have time to hug them and read to them,” she said.

The task force studying this issue will present its recommendations to the Board of Education on March 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the high school library.

 
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