U-46 to adopt program framework for full-day kindergarten
Elgin schools officials say they will be adopting a program framework next month for full-day kindergarten, which includes teacher training and new instructional materials, and will decide whether to implement it districtwide at a later time.
A committee of Elgin Area School District U-46 educators met from October through January to develop the proposal. So far, 2,050 students have already registered for kindergarten this fall -- 1,983 choosing the full-day kindergarten option and 67 opting for a half-day program, said Peggy Ondera, U-46 director of early learner initiatives.
The district typically has approximately 2,600 kindergartners enrolled yearly in half-day kindergarten classes, offered in morning and afternoon shifts. Tuition-based, full-day kindergarten classes also have been available on a voluntary basis at various sites for three years.
Full-day kindergarten classrooms would incorporate a play-based learning model and developmentally appropriate practices aligned to national and state standards, Ondera said.
Teachers would use blocks of time during the day to focus on students' language and literacy skills. Students also would get more support in developing self regulation and social skills.
"Children who have access to the full-day kindergarten are more likely to transition into first grade easily," Ondera said. "They have those social/emotional skills and school readiness skills that bring them to first grade ready to learn. Long-term studies show that they do tend to stay in school."
The district's current full-day kindergarten students have performed above expectations -- 65 percent of dual language and 72 percent of general education students surpassed growth expectations over the course of a year, officials said.
Studies also have shown full-day kindergarten to be beneficial for low-income and minority students, Ondera said.
The total cost of full-day kindergarten roll out is estimated at roughly $4 million in the first year. That includes adding 30 full-time classroom teaching positions, eight full-time physical education teachers, and a noon hour supervisor -- a cost of $2.25 million, $600,000 and $187,200, respectively -- for the district's 40 elementary schools. Training for teachers, furniture and equipment, and instructional materials make up the remainder. Student enrollment fees would be $96 yearly per student.
New kindergarten classrooms would be fitted with the necessary equipment, furniture and materials that support hands-on exploration, and existing classrooms would be retrofitted.
"Some of these costs are initial costs because we are implementing full-day kindergarten for the first time," said Suzanne Johnson, U-46 assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.
Officials said 2016-17 will be a baseline year. The program will be evaluated at the end of the school year using various measures, such as the state's new Kindergarten Individual Development Survey assessment on kindergarten readiness, through parental engagement and feedback from parents and teachers.
"We really view parents as a child's first teacher and it's so important for us that we build that partnership," Ondera said.
Johnson added, it could take five to seven years before officials can gauge the program's impact as students move through the system.