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posted: 10/26/2011 5:30 AM

Batavia schools Kindergarten program divides leaders

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  • Batavia schools Trustee Joseph Purpura

      Batavia schools Trustee Joseph Purpura

  • Batavia schools Trustee Jayne Resek

      Batavia schools Trustee Jayne Resek

 
 

Trustees and parents questioned the Batavia school administration's suggestion to eliminate the kindergarten after-school enrichment program.

Eliminating the 2-year-old program would let teachers focus on children who actually need extra instruction to catch up with their peers in a true, full-day kindergarten instructional program, according to a report on the subject. The full-day program would also continue to serve students who need literacy work, students who speak little or no English, and students with developmental disabilities.

The Batavia school district used to offer full-day kindergarten to all students, from 2001 until the fall of 2010. It was dropped as the district made budget cuts, because state reimbursement for full-day kindergarten had decreased, and because it questioned whether attending for a full day ultimately mattered to a child's academic progress.

Administrators at the time cited research that shows that any gap in achievement in kindergarten between half- and full-day kindergartners is closed by the time the students are in third grade.

The last two years, the district has offered the optional after-school program. Parents pay about $250 a month for it, and the fee is waived for low-income students.

Several parents asked the board Tuesday to keep the program.

"I feel like the kids need a really strong start in their academic careers," said Amy Hansen, whose son was in the program last year. She said he had some minor issues and that enrichment is what has him now scoring at the recommended level in mathematics and above target in reading.

"It is the best time for them to learn. ... I just feel like we would be taking a step back if we remove the ASEP program," said Jamie Porter, who has a son in the program this year and would enroll a daughter next year.

Inequity in offerings between those who attend half-day kindergarten instruction and those who attend half-day kindergarten plus the after-school program worries Trustee Joseph Purpura. Earlier this fall, parents protested when the half-day kindergarten day was shortened, and instruction by specialists in art, music and physical education was removed. Regular teachers were expected to then teach those topics, and the specialists supplemented that in the enrichment program.

Purpura believes those in the after-school program may unfairly be getting extra instruction, not just "enrichment."

Trustee Jayne Resek said, however, that such an inequity may not matter to parents, if the specialists resume teaching in the half-day program.

"We had a program the public was very happy with. The only time we had dissatisfaction was when we shortened it and took away the 'specials,'" she said.

The board wants more information, including how many districts in Kane County offer true full-day kindergarten, and whether they do so because the state pays for it.

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