After much discussion, public comment and hard work, all-day kindergarten is a reality for some schools in Naperville School District 203 this fall.
The schools picked to begin the program this year are the so-called “Title One” schools, so named for having more than the district average of 13 percent of their students receiving free or reduced price lunches. The schools are Ellsworth, Elmwood, Beebe, Naper, Mill, River Woods and Scott.
The move to an all-day kindergarten program puts District 203 in line with many other school systems in the area, including Indian Prairie School District 204.
Many other districts in the area, such as East Aurora, are looking to move to a full-day format.
In District 203, officials said the move to all-day kindergarten was designed to increase the time students spend with teachers from 150 to 350 minutes per day. It doubles the amount of time students spend on language arts and more than triples the time spent on math, district officials have said.
District officials said all the extra classroom time will better prepare students when they enter first grade.
One of the concerns raised about moving the Naperville schools to all-day kindergarten was cost, including getting the buildings ready for a full-day program for the students.
The district’s original estimate for the cost of the first year of the program was $1.18 million, but that figure is now expected to be $1.22 million, district officials said.
Although the change is coming in slightly over budget, district officials have said they are pleased overall with how the transition is going.
Now, parents are urging the district not to waver in its commitment to provide all-day kindergarten for the district’s other seven elementary schools.
“Please approve the costs now and allocate the money,” resident Brian Grabowski urged the Board of Education recently.
Resident Kathy Carnahan agreed, acknowledging the costs involved, but arguing that the money was well-spent.
“I believe the positive outcomes are well worth the costs,” she said.
The district agrees, and Superintendent Dan Bridges indicated that the issue of moving the rest of the schools to an all-day kindergarten schedule will be the subject of further discussion at the School Board’s Oct. 25 meeting.
With the start-up costs of the program actually coming in about $140,000 less than anticipated, a significant part of the higher cost of the program can be attributed to additional operational costs. Part of this was a result of the State of Illinois coming up about $23,000 short of the aid the district expected.
Also contributing to the shortfall on the operational side is that the actual number of students in the program increased from 454 to 515, largely because of an influx of 38 new students to River Woods Elementary, thanks to a dual language program offered there.
But with the cost overrun being slightly under 4 percent, district officials said they see no reason to rethink the commitment to expand the program to all schools.
It’s the district’s intention to have a formal vote on the operational and financial aspects of providing all-day kindergarten for the rest of the district in November, district officials said.