U-46 adopts full-day kindergarten curriculum, resources

 
 
Updated 4/11/2016 10:41 PM
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Elgin schools officials Monday night approved the curriculum and resources for implementing full-day kindergarten districtwide this fall, with some dissension.

The Elgin Area School District U-46 school board voted 5-2 in favor of the proposal.

So far, more than 2,000 students have registered for kindergarten this fall -- a majority opting for the full-day kindergarten option.

The total cost of full-day kindergarten rollout 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.

U-46 typically has roughly 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.

The two board members who voted against it oppose offering full-day kindergarten districtwide and believe its benefits are not proven.

Board member Cody Holt said the full-day kindergarten proposal lacks data and disregards the district's financial situation and the disapproval of some community members.

Holt said the only credible and tangible data is test scores which do not show that full-day kindergarten has a significant impact on student achievement.

"Before implementing such a huge program, I would like to have seen a more comprehensive collection of internal data," he said. "There are many studies for or against full-day kindergarten.

Holt acknowledged having the program would make U-46 more competitive with neighboring school districts -- such as Community Unit District 300 and Barrington Unit District 220 -- that offer full-day kindergarten, but he questioned whether the program would help increase the district's tax base as administrators have suggested.

"In a year of financial uncertainty, I think it is wrong to vastly expand our operations," Holt said. "We are taking resources away from the majority of students in favor of a select few."

School board member Jeanette Ward, who opposes full-day kindergarten entirely, questioned what would happen if state funding of schools potentially stops in a few years considering the current climate.

"Taxpayers are having difficulty grappling with paying for the current offerings we have," she said.

Board member Phil Costello supported the proposal with some reservations about the proposed student-to-teacher ratio of 28-1.

"I think it will improve the taxes and the finances of this district," said Costello, adding he will hold the administration accountable for its claim that potential tax revenues justify the program's long-term cost.

Full-day kindergarten classrooms would incorporate a play-based learning model and practices aligned to national and state standards. 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.

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