Barring unforeseen circumstances, Naperville School District 203 will vote to approve all-day kindergarten for all 14 district elementary schools at its first meeting in November.
“This conversation has been going on for some time,” Superintendent Dan Bridges said Monday at the district’s School Board meeting.
Bridges said that the coming added rigor in standards make an all-day kindergarten program a necessity and a priority rather than just a luxury.
Beginning this fall, the district implemented an all-day option for its seven “Title One” schools, so designated for having a certain percentage of students receiving free or reduced price lunch. 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.
The first phase of the program in District 203 registered about 500 students, and the second phase will bring total enrollment to slightly more than 1,000 students.
Added to the district’s class load will be 22 new sections and 11 new full-time equivalent teachers. Start-up costs for the first seven schools came in at $1.2 million.
Implementation at the remaining seven schools will cost an estimated $1.3 million.
Bridges said that the district put itself under some constraints planning for the program, not the least of which was ruling out any facility expansion or new building to accommodate the all-day programs.
District staff stressed the need for the all-day program, particularly with the Common Core Standards soon to be fully implemented across the state.
“All students deserve the best possible opportunity to realize our district’s mission,” Kitty Ryan, assistant superintendent for Elementary Education, told the board.
Chief Academic Officer Jennifer Hester agreed, noting that new curriculum for art, music and physical education are already in place, as were assessment programs for math and literacy.
Pressed by board member Susan Crotty to justify the need for an all-day kindergarten program, Hester again stressed the more rigorous Common Core Standards, but also said that added interaction between students and teachers is a key.
“We need time to meet our students needs,” she said. “As we gain more time, we do decrease the need for intervention.”
Board member Donna Wandke asked if the district was able to meet the financial obligations of bringing all-day kindergarten to all students.
District Chief Financial Officer Brad Cauffman said that the cost could be handled through the normal budget process, which would include looking for efficiencies to be gained, especially through eliminating duplication of services.
He also said that the district would soon realize about $18 million in property growth, which will bring in extra revenue for the district’s coffers.
Board President Jackie Romberg was glad the issue was finally being resolved.
“We’ve talked about it for about 18 months to two years,” she said. “I’m hoping for good things ... and that the board can vote on it next meeting.”