D203 moving closer to all-day kindergarten
By Hank Beckman For The Sun December 18, 2012 3:54PM
Updated: January 20, 2013 6:22AM
Naperville School District 203 is getting closer to setting up a targeted all-day kindergarten program next fall.
District 203 officials reported their recommendation to the Board of Education Monday night, and while the plan as submitted received some criticism, indications are that it will be finalized at the board’s Jan. 7 meeting.
“We believe it is an opportunity to capture that unique window of time (when children learn rapidly),” Dr. Jennifer Hester, associate superintendant for Learning Services, said about the all-day plan.
Superintendent Dan Bridges said that while the present plan was to introduce all-day kindergarten to only some schools next school year, he made it clear that the district’s intention was to implement all-day kindergarten for all district schools in the near future.
The move to an all-day program would increase total time that kindergartners spend with their teachers from 150 minutes to 350 a day. It would also double the amount of time devoted to Language Arts from one hour to two hours per day and more than triple the time spent on math.
Science and social science instruction time would also see increases.
The 2013-14 start up cost would be $380,000, including $300,000 for remodeling Ellsworth Elementary to handle the students all day.
A room addition for Naper Elementary would cost slightly more than $1 million in 2014 to allow it to handle all-day kindergarten.
The schools on the proposed list for all-day kindergarten next year include Ellsworth, Elmwood, Beebe, Naper, Mill, River Woods and Scott. Those schools were picked because they are among those in the district that have more than the 13 percent district average of children receiving free and reduced price lunch.
Trustee Dave Weeks said that he was uncomfortable with targeting schools with a certain percentage of disadvantaged children, but leaving the rest of the district’s needy children behind for a least one year.
“I cannot support bringing 100 percent to half our population when the needy will be left behind,” he said.
Weeks also said that he was uncomfortable with going forward without a three-year strategic plan that he said the board agreed to have before formulating any significant initiatives. He also was concerned that the students in the schools not going to all-day kindergarten right away would be left out next year.
He also has financial concerns about the proposal.
“What if a worst-case scenarios comes down the road,” he said, noting that one such scenario could be the state shifting pension costs back to local school districts.
But his colleagues disagreed with him.
Board member Jackie Romberg said that the students in other schools would not be ignored.
Board member Suzyn Pryce said she disagreed with Week’s characterization of the board’s wishes on a strategic plan.
“The board did not say we need to see a strategic plan before we make a decision,” she said.
Both Pryce and Romberg noted the coming Common Core Curriculum was driving the move to all-day kindergarten.
“Common Core has been blasted on us,” Romberg said.
Weeks insisted that, once in place, the program would never be undone.
“Why would we want to approve it in pieces,” he said. “We haven’t done a resource plan.”
Romberg shot back that her understanding was that the district was not capable of implementing a district-wide plan as early as 2013-14.
“We cannot physically do it this year,” she said.
After the meeting, Weeks insisted that providing an all-day kindergarten for only some of the district’s needy students didn’t sit right with him.
“I have a problem with that,” he said.