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Article updated: 10/1/2013 3:00 PM

Keeneyville District 20 scraps grade-level center idea

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A proposal to create grade-level centers in Keeneyville Elementary District 20 has been dropped after it proved too unpopular among parents.

But the district will continue to explore the possibility of offering all-day kindergarten during the next school year.

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The thought of reorganizing the district's two elementary schools -- which serve students in kindergarten through fifth grade -- into grade-level centers came up as administrators were examining the full-day kindergarten proposal.

Superintendent Michael Connolly said the research found there is "a distinct educational need" to pursue a full-day kindergarten program. It also would be possible for the district to support such a program within its existing K-5 model.

However, it was "very clear" from the results of focus groups and a districtwide survey that there "is not a great deal of community support" for grade-level centers, he said.

Under the proposal, Waterbury Elementary in Roselle and Greenbrook Elementary in Hanover Park would have been divided into one school serving kindergarten through second grade and the other serving third- through fifth-graders. Spring Wood Middle School in Hanover Park wouldn't have been impacted.

But Connolly said the district simply isn't ready to make the switch to grade-level centers.

"Our staff is very supportive of bringing in full-day kindergarten," he said. "But there's some concern about the move to a grade-level center model and how that would be done."

School board members last week agreed with Connolly's recommendation to pursue all-day kindergarten without creating grade-level centers.

Waterbury parents who opposed reorganizing the school said the decision confirmed what they already knew.

"Grade-level centers are not a viable option in our quest for improved educational outcomes here in District 20," Waterbury parent Dan Bruno wrote in an email.

While the issue of grade-level centers is off the table for next year, Bruno predicted this won't be the last time the idea is discussed.

"If it is brought up in the future without new research or data that provides a positive correlation to improved test scores," Bruno said, "we have a very strong group of people that stand ready to fight it again."

In the meantime, district officials are focusing on the full-day kindergarten idea, which parents say they support.

"Now we're going to be really digging in and pulling together what exactly a full-day kindergarten is going to look like in our district," Connelly said. "What's the scheduling going to be? What kind of staffing are we going to need to pull together?"

Connelly said he will spend the next few months gathering information school board members will need to decide whether to implement full-day kindergarten. A final vote is expected by January.

"I need them to make a decision one way or the other by January so we could put it all in place," Connelly said.

In order to respond to questions from the community, district officials have scheduled a town-hall meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday at Spring Wood Middle School, 5540 Arlington Drive East, Hanover Park.

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