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posted: 2/22/2014 8:00 AM

District 33 spreading word on all-day kindergarten

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Residents in West Chicago Elementary District 33 can learn more about plans to implement full-day kindergarten this fall at all six elementary schools during a town-hall meeting scheduled for early March.

The school board voted earlier this month to offer all-day kindergarten for all youngsters after a pilot program for dual-language students at Gary School won praise from parents, teachers and administrators, officials said.

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District spokeswoman Gina Steinbrecher said officials at the town-hall session will provide parents with information about all-day kindergarten, including the potential benefits and registration information, and answer questions.

The district will continue to offer half-day kindergarten classes as mandated by the state.

The meeting is scheduled from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. in the Leman Middle School community room at 238 E. Hazel St.

Steinbrecher said the district had 485 kindergarten students as of Feb. 1 and expects that number to increase in the coming school year. She said officials expect most of those students to participate in the full-day kindergarten program, both for the educational benefits and because it's more convenient for many working parents than having their children in school for only 2½ hours a day.

Steinbrecher said the district's push toward expanded kindergarten began in 2011 when a strategic planning committee that included community members, teachers, administrators, business people, support staff and others recommended it study the idea with an eye toward better preparing its young students.

At the start of the current school year, the district offered optional all-day kindergarten only for youngsters in the dual language program at Gary and wound up filling four classrooms of about 30 students each. Steinbrecher said only a handful of dual-language parents opted to have their children attend half-day classes, and even some of them eventually switched to the all-day program.

The March 6 meeting will give parents "an idea of how it's going to work and some background as to how the board of education came to the decision to offer all-day kindergarten," she said.

District officials have said they expect the program to cost an additional $750,000 a year, with most of the additional funding coming from an expected increase in state aid. That money, they said, will be used for additional staffing, supplies and transportation.

Steinbrecher said the district also is urging parents of kindergartners to register their children on specific dates this spring to help the district get the most accurate enrollment count possible. Registration is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 28 for students at Indian Knoll and Turner; April 30 for Currier and Gary; and May 1 for Pioneer and Wegner.

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