District 95 to offer full-day kindergarten

 
 
Updated 3/11/2016 4:47 PM
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  • Spencer Loomis Elementary School in Hawthorn Woods would be one of five buildings with free full-day kindergarten in 2017-18 under a proposal at Lake Zurich Unit District 95.

    Spencer Loomis Elementary School in Hawthorn Woods would be one of five buildings with free full-day kindergarten in 2017-18 under a proposal at Lake Zurich Unit District 95. Daily Herald file photo

Lake Zurich Unit District 95 officials have agreed a free full-day kindergarten program should start in the 2017-18 academic season.

District 95 board members reached their consensus on the idea at a meeting Thursday night after receiving a presentation as part of a committee's recommendation to launch the program in 2017-18.

"We're just very excited about that possibility of full-day kindergarten in the district," said Sandy Allen, a committee member and principal of Spencer Loomis Elementary School in Hawthorn Woods.

It's projected an additional five certified kindergarten teachers and a specialist would be needed to staff the all-day program. The initial cost would be $330,000, based on the average salary and benefits for the instructors.

Full-day kindergarten programs have been growing in the suburbs.

Among the school systems with the option are Gurnee-based Woodland Elementary District 50, Geneva Unit District 304 and Naperville-based Indian Prairie Unit District 204. St. Charles Unit District 303 has all-day kindergarten labeled as "free" with a $25 monthly cost for families in a federal lunch program.

Allen said the District 95 kindergarten team observed existing full-day programs as part of its research.

"We went to St. Charles," Allen said. "We went to Geneva. There were several others we visited."

At the District 95 school board's request, the committee started studying all-day kindergarten in September. The group included a kindergarten teacher from each of the district's five elementary buildings and administrators.

In a report to the elected officials, the committee found full-day kindergarten "affords the necessary time to better prepare students for the more rigorous curriculum now found at all grade levels." Half-day program would remain available as a choice for District 95 parents.

Pros and cons for all-day kindergarten were addressed in the committee's report to the District 95 board. Education research on the topic from several sources was cited for possible benefits and drawbacks.

Disadvantages listed in the report included the personnel costs and the typical need for more classroom space. Other concerns regarded the readiness of kindergarten children to handle the time and rigors of a full-day program.

On the pro side, the report stated few, if any, detrimental effects have been found for children who attend kindergarten for a full day instead of a half day. The committee also wrote that benefits are most profound to children from low-income backgrounds and students with limited English proficiency.

In addition, the committee found children exhibit greater readiness for first grade when they attend full-day kindergarten, as well as accelerated progress in academic areas such as literacy and mathematics.

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