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updated: 1/24/2012 11:31 PM

Batavia schools change kindergarten, enrichment program

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Batavia public schools are turning after-school kindergarten enrichment over to the Batavia Park District.

The school district is bringing back specialists to art, music and physical education for kindergartners.

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It is also revamping how it decides which kindergartners have special need of supplemental instruction.

The school board approved the measures Tuesday night.

The board gave administrators permission to contract with the park district for the enrichment program. The programs would take place in the morning and afternoon, before or after classes. The program would use one classroom at each school.

"We are fortunate the park district has a history of being able to do this, and they do it well," said board President Ron Link. "My concern is at a level of identifying the end of the half-day (kindergarten) versus the after-school enrichment. We are just going to have to watch that very close."

The park district runs a preschool, and a before- and after-school care program for children in kindergarten through fifth grade, at its two community centers.

The park district would hire the enrichment staff. Parents would pay an estimated $270 a month for four-hours-a-day, five-days-a-week programming.

From 2001 until 2010, the school district offered full-day kindergarten. It dropped it because state reimbursement for it declined, and because administrators came to believe it wasn't necessary for all children. They cited research that showed any gap in abilities between full- and half-day kindergartners closed by the time those students reached third grade.

It kept full-day kindergarten for children with special needs, such as developmental and social delays and those who spoke English as a second language.

The district offered a $250-a-month enrichment program.

But in fall 2011, the district shortened the kindergarten day, and stopped having specialists teach art, music and physical education. Classroom teachers and a school social worker were to handle those duties. The specialists did work in the enrichment program, however.

Parents protested the shortened day and the removal of the specialists. One board member said he suspected enrichment students were actually receiving instruction, not just enrichment, from the specialists.

Under the plan adopted Tuesday, the specialists will teach their subject in a 12-week block.

As for the supplemental kindergarten, instead of relying on only on springtime kindergarten-readiness tests, children will be evaluated by their classroom teachers and two intervention specialists during the first three weeks of school. Those who need help would receive an intervention in weeks 4 through 8, and parents would be informed about this. Additional programming would start in week 9.

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