Dist. 59 to expand full-day kindergarten to all schools
Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 appears poised to offer full-day kindergarten at all elementary schools as soon as next school year.
A majority of school board members on Monday favored Superintendent Art Fessler's plan to expand full-day kindergarten from six to 11 schools, though a formal vote is expected at the board's Dec. 8 meeting.
Officials say it would cost between $450,000 and $550,000 a year to pay for the full-day program across the district, accounting for 8.5 additional salaried positions with benefits, classroom materials and transportation costs. Another possibility is allowing parents who want their children to attend full-day kindergarten to cover the cost of the additional half-day, though some board members didn't like that option.
The district currently pays for full-day kindergarten at some schools with $1.5 million in federal Title I funds.
District officials say expanding kindergarten to a full day would strengthen students' skills, help close the achievement gap, and provide equity across the district.
Fessler said three quarters of kindergarten students across the country attend class for a full-day; Illinois doesn't mandate it.
"We've been having this discussion for about a decade, but we believe the time is now," Fessler said. "How can you argue having our kids twice as long is not good for them?"
About 400 students are currently enrolled in full-day kindergarten. Expanding the program would mean about 700 students receiving full-day instruction.
Officials plan to reconfigure classrooms at the elementary schools to make room for additional kindergarten students. More space will be made available at some schools as a result of the construction of an early childhood learning center for preschool students. That project, being built as an addition to Holmes Junior High in Mount Prospect, is expected to be complete by the start of the 2015-16 school year.
If schools are overcrowded because of the expanded kindergarten, the district could designate full-day kindergarten "overflow sites" at a school each on the north and south sides of the district.
Board member Mardell Schumacher, who opposed expanding full-day kindergarten to all schools, cautioned the board and superintendent to wait and see how the early learning center is implemented before moving onto another major initiative.
"Let's work hard on what's already underway," Schumacher said. "The pendulum keeps swinging on the best way to educate children. Let us not keep swinging, but hold a steady course of action. It's maybe a very good idea some day, but I don't think we're ready for it."
District 59 includes portions of Elk Grove Village, Arlington Heights, Des Plaines and Mount Prospect.