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updated: 10/9/2013 4:41 PM

All-day kindergarten may expand in Dist. 203

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It appears all involved with Naperville Unit District 203's fledgling all-day kindergarten program -- parents, teachers and administrators -- believe it should be expanded to all schools next year.

Superintendent Dan Bridges said the district soon will present details of how all-day instruction could be implemented in August 2014 at the seven elementary schools not offering the program this year.

The school board is set to hear logistical, operational and financial aspects of all-day kindergarten expansion on Oct. 21, and could approve the plan as soon as Nov. 4.

Bridges said administrators are recommending the expansion be approved, following a plan they first brought forward last December to implement all-day kindergarten districtwide in a two-year process.

Schools that could receive a boost in kindergarten class time next year are Highlands, Kingsley, Maplebrook, Meadow Glens, Prairie, Ranch View and Steeple Run.

Expansion of longer instruction already in place at Beebe, Ellsworth, Elmwood, Mill, Naper, River Woods and Scott elementary schools is exactly what parents who spoke to the school board Monday said they are looking for.

All the district's roughly 1,000 kindergartners need a full day of learning now that the rigorous Common Core standards are being implemented, said Anne Deckard, whose children, including one who will begin kindergarten next year, attend Ranch View.

"An all-day kindergarten program will better prepare our students for the Common Core and give them the foundation they need to be successful," Deckard said.

Teachers Jane Sterrett and Lynn Henz, who instruct all-day kindergarten at Scott and Elmwood schools, respectively, said "time has been the biggest gift" to adequately teach new math and literacy curriculums, both aligned to the Common Core.

"This program promotes our kindergartners as readers and writers from early in the school year," said Jennifer Hester, associate superintendent of learning services.

While Hester said half-day kindergarten students learn the same curriculum as the 515 enrolled in the full-day program, their teachers must find creative ways to fit the instruction into fewer hours.

Parent Kathy Carnahan, whose children attend Prairie and include an incoming kindergartner, said continuing to offer the full-day program at half the district's schools would be unfair.

"This has the potential to advantage kids who attend all-day kindergarten," Carnahan said. "It does seem a matter of fundamental fairness that children should generally be treated with similar options across the district."

As the district looks to expand all-day kindergarten, staff members are assessing needs for classroom space, additional staff and possible building renovations as they build a budget for operating the program next year.

Chief Financial Officer Brad Cauffman said the program is $44,785 over its almost $1.2 million budget this year, largely because the state is providing only 81 percent of the aid it owes the district.

Parents encouraged the district to make the expansion of all-day kindergarten a priority in next year's budget.

"I believe that positive outcomes are well worth the cost," Carnahan said.

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