Elementary principals at the seven schools in Naperville Unit District 203 that did not begin all-day kindergarten this school year applauded Monday night as the school board approved expansion of the program to their buildings next year.
The board unanimously approved Superintendent Dan Bridges' recommendation for all-day kindergarten to begin in August 2014 at Highlands, Kingsley, Maplebrook, Meadow Glens, Prairie, Ranch View and Steeple Run elementary schools at an estimated cost of $1.3 million.
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"I'm very excited. I know this is the best decision for children," said Gwen Bockman, principal of Maplebrook Elementary.
Educators say offering kindergarten for a full school day gives teachers more time to help students develop socially and emotionally, build critical thinking skills and hone creativity. The longer day also includes more time for math, literacy, science, social science, art, music and physical education.
"We're seeing the benefits," of the program being offered beginning this year at Beebe, Ellsworth, Elmwood, Mill Street, Naper, River Woods and Scott schools, Bridges said before the board's vote. "We're seeing the positive nature of the all-day kindergarten program and would certainly welcome and embrace the opportunity to make that available to all kindergarten students."
Expansion next year of all-day kindergarten to the remaining seven elementary schools follows the two-year rollout plan the district brought forward when discussions of the extended hours began in early 2012.
"This has been a very deliberate and thoughtful approach by the administrators," board President Jackie Romberg said.
With board approval in place, principals like Bockman can begin addressing staffing and scheduling to prepare for longer kindergarten instruction next year. Maplebrook only has one kindergarten teacher this year, but it's projected to have three sections of all-day kindergarten next fall.
The district expects the annual ongoing cost of all-day kindergarten to be $1.9 million, but board members who cast enthusiastic "yes" votes said providing greater opportunities to the district's youngest learners is well worth it.
"Extending that day is what is going to give our students what they need to start their academic careers off with success," board member Kristin Fitzgerald said.
Program: Expansion to remaining 7 schools will cost $1.3 million