Schaumburg Dist. 54 approves free, full-day kindergarten

 
 
Updated 1/23/2015 3:22 PM

Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 school board members voted 5-0 Thursday to start offering a free, full-day kindergarten program at all 22 of its elementary schools this fall.

But the vote -- which included an abstention from board member Barbara Hengels -- was preceded by the voicing of financial concerns by her and two parents.

 

Both Pat McAvoy-Costin of Elk Grove Village and Stacy Gale of Hoffman Estates said they were satisfied with the district's academic achievements so far but opposed the full-day kindergarten.

McAvoy-Costin was particularly concerned about any cuts in state funding making the program unaffordable or putting a greater burden on taxpayers.

"This is just not the right time for it," she said.

Gale's concern was that the $4 million cost of starting the program benefited only kindergartners and not any of the district's other students.

Hengels explained her abstention as a stalemate between her support for the academic mission of such a program and the same financial concerns McAvoy-Costin had about state funding.

"It's a difficult situation for me," Hengels said.

But other board members expressed strong support for the program. Though absent from Thursday's vote, board member Karen Strykowski let her support be known two weeks ago.

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Board member Teresa Huber said she was satisfied that full-day kindergarten would benefit all children of the district as well as be financially sustainable.

"This is a well-thought-out program," Huber said.

Several audience members, who didn't comment during the discussion, applauded after the vote was made.

The district will still provide a half-day kindergarten option at all the schools, as legally required.

But administrators expect only a small percentage to take half-day classes.

Administrators who proposed the program said the cost increase for additional teachers, transportation, building renovations and class materials would be justified by the stronger academic and social skills full-day kindergarten would build.

The change will require 37 more teachers, which alone brings an increased cost of $2.8 million per year.

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