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updated: 2/28/2014 4:27 PM

Winfield District 34 to offer all-day kindergarten

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Winfield Elementary District 34 will offer all-day kindergarten for the first time next fall with an eye toward better preparing young students to meet new Common Core standards in English, language arts and math.

The school board on Thursday approved plans to launch the all-day program at the start of the 2014-15 school year at Winfield Primary School, which houses students from prekindergarten through second grade. The district currently offers two half-day kindergarten sessions.

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Principal Dawn Reinke said the all-day kindergarten class will give students more time to practice their skills along with additional opportunities for social and emotional development.

Because of the district's small size, Reinke said, it will offer only one kindergarten class next year, which will combine full-day and half-day students.

The teacher will focus on core components of the curriculum -- reading, writing and math -- during the morning when all of the students are present, she said. After the half-day students leave at 11 a.m., the remaining students will have lunch and then participate in readers' and writers' workshops, guided math and other programs that will allow them to develop their new skills.

Parents of students who attend half-day classes will continue to pay a nominal registration fee, she said. Parents of students who attend full-day classes, however, will pay an annual tuition of $2,461.50 -- comparable to what parents are paying in the district's preschool program.

Reinke said there are 33 students in the district's two kindergarten sessions this year, but projections indicate that number is likely to be lower next fall. The district will have a better estimate of the number of incoming students following its annual Kindergarten Roundup on Monday, March 17, but officials currently are expecting about 25.

District officials say the combination of the relatively small number of students and the tuition payments will offset any cost concerns about implementing the program.

The decision to pursue all-day kindergarten came after the district created a 14-member task force that included parents, teachers, administrators and school board members that split into four subcommittees and spent roughly eight months studying the options.

Reinke said research indicates all-day classes help better prepare kindergartners for the first-grade curriculum and to meet ever-tougher state and federal standards. She said task force members visited schools that already have implemented similar programs and she talked to other principals to pick their brains about what works and what doesn't.

In a news release, officials said more than 70 percent of kindergartners statewide are enrolled in all-day programs and District 34 "wants to be a part of that growing trend as much as the district's financial profile allows."

Administrators said they will keep a close eye on enrollment numbers and, if they become too high for one kindergarten class, will come back to the board to request creation of a second half-day class.

Winfield is the second DuPage school district in recent weeks to approve a switch to all-day kindergarten. Officials in West Chicago Elementary District 33 announced a similar move earlier in February.

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