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updated: 7/23/2013 10:56 AM

Geneva thinking again about all-day kindergarten

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Geneva school officials have resurrected the idea of offering all-day kindergarten.

"I would like us to pursue this aggressively. I think it is way past time that we do this," said school board member Kelly Nowak, as the board was polled for its interest.

But like several of the other four board members attending Monday's meeting, she cautioned that financing it is a huge factor.

In 2008, a task force of teachers and administrators recommended full-day kindergarten, but the board decided the district could not afford it. Instead, it started the "Foundations" program, extra instruction for kindergartners who were behind or struggling academically.

That report said that in full-day kindergarten, students would receive twice as much instructional time for mathematics, music, physical education and reading, and six times more instructional time for science and social science.

The district will form a new task force in the fall to freshen the 2008 report, gauge the interest of the community, and figure out what full-day kindergarten would cost and how to pay for it.

The 2008 report estimated it would cost an additional $840,000 for teachers and assistants, and $144,000 for classroom equipment, plus any remodeling of classrooms. The district could save on busing, however, if it didn't have to run midday kindergarten routes.

"It's not fair and equitable for the whole district to cover the extra costs. The additional amount would have to be covered by parents," said board member Bill Wilson.

Nowak said she wouldn't want the program denied to a child because their parents can't afford it.

"I just don't want anybody left out of a program that would benefit them," she said.

Illinois law requires a school district to offer half-day kindergarten, even if it also has full-day kindergarten. Board members Mary Stith, Bill Wilson and Nowak said they would want to make sure all students are treated equitably. Whether attending all day, a half day, or the "Foundations" program, all the students should be equally ready for first grade, Wilson said.

Board President Mark Grosso said when he first heard about all-day kindergarten, before he was elected, he questioned whether it was necessary or a good idea. But the results in other districts convinced him, as well as the tougher standards kindergartners are expected to meet, including the new Common Core curriculum standards.

It's not like when he went to kindergarten in 1955. "I spent a lot of time sleeping on a little carpet," he joked.

Batavia dropped full-day kindergarten for all students after nine years in 2010, due to decreasing state money for the program. It instead offers "kindergarten enrichment," run by the Batavia Park District, for a fee.

The Kaneland school district experimented with an extended-day kindergarten program at one elementary school this year. The St. Charles school district also offers full-day kindergarten. Both charge a fee for the extra time.

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