District 25 parents push for full-day kindergarten
Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 officials could decide by this summer whether to implement full-day kindergarten across the district, in response to a group of parents who are pushing for the move.
District 25 is not among the more than 70 percent of school districts statewide that offer full-day programs. That prompted parent Erin Blackburn to organize a Facebook group to call on the district to study the issue. She and other parents had a subsequent meeting with Superintendent Lori Bein.
"The benefits of it and the investment the district can make will follow that child," said Blackburn, whose son will be in kindergarten next fall. "It's a pretty good thing to have."
Parents and community members who took a school district survey last spring identified full-day kindergarten as a top interest. Bein said that's led district officials to begin discussions on the issue internally.
"We're looking at what staff values about the current (half-day) program, its challenges and needs, and what we can do well and what we might want to be able to do differently," Bein said.
Bein said she has heard from an equal number of parents who want the district to keep its existing half-day program, in which kindergartners attend school for 2.5 hours a day in either morning or afternoon sessions. She says those parents have told her their children wouldn't have been ready developmentally for a full day.
Bein, who helped launch full-day programs at other school districts in which she has worked, said she will talk with other districts in the North, West and Northwest suburbs about their programs. She's also planning more staff meetings before coming back to the school board with a recommendation this summer.
"What's important to me is not to put the cart before the horse here," Bein said. "We're looking at what's the best quality (program) for our kids, then determine how does that quality happen. Does it need more time or resources? Number one for me is what's the best instructional program we can offer 5-year-olds."
Were the district to go to full-day at all seven elementary schools, Bein said she would have to hire at least 24 more teachers. It would also mean adding 16 more classrooms throughout the district.
The superintendent also said it would be "highly unlikely" the district would be able to cover the cost for a full-day program. If implemented, full-day could cost parents an estimated $4,000 to $5,000 in annual tuition, Bein said.
Blackburn said she wouldn't mind paying tuition, though believes it wouldn't be fair to lower income families.
She plans to keep the pressure on district officials by emailing school board members and starting an online petition.
"With the Common Core standards now, you're expected to do so much more than when we were kids," said Blackburn, 33, who is a special-education teacher in another suburban district. "Things have changed. Kindergarten looks different."
District 25's kindergarten enrollment for its half-day classes is just under 500, while first grade enrollment is just above 600. Those numbers have been are consistent over the years, Bein said.