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District Unveils Full-Time Kindergarten Pilot Program

The selection process for the program will be through an anonymous lottery beginning on Wednesday, Aug. 1

The school district administration unveiled a full-time kindergarten pilot program Monday night that will kickoff this September.

“We are very excited to be presenting this program. The administration has been discussing this implementation since January 2012,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Vanessa Clark said.

Full-time kindergarten has been a topic of discussion in Lacey for more than nine years, with limited resources being the main hindrance. 

Key aspects for consideration of the pilot program were enrollment figures, facilities and staffing needs, Clark said.

Currently, 23 school districts in Ocean County have a full-day kindergarten program and six, including Lacey Township, do not. Two of those six offer paid enrichment for students to stay a whole day, said Michelle Amos, District Supervisor for Language Arts.

“In our discussions we thought that this was really essential that we take baby steps toward a solution to get our students to the point where they have the same educational opportunities as students in surrounding districts,” she said.

With a full-time program, 30 percent more time will be spent on reading and literacy instruction while 46 percent more time will be dedicated to mathematics, she said. Kindergarten through second grade are foundational years for literacy skills and the district had a two-year adoption of enVisionMATH for kindergarten through sixth grade.

“The additional time would really benefit our students,” Amos said. “The students would really benefit from being able to implement some of the additional pieces, the technology pieces, small group instruction.”

Kindergarten can technically be taught during a half-day but the subjects should be taught in a 60-minute block, Amos said.

As per the New Jersey Department of Education’s Best Practices in Kindergarten Implementation, 140 minutes should be dedicated to literacy and math daily; 90 minutes to interdisciplinary content areas/technology instruction; 40 to specials such as physical education, art, and music; 60 minutes to social skills development during lunch and recess and 60 minutes for classroom activities/transitions. Those time blocks are spread out throughout the day, Amos said.

The program would provide greater opportunities for more independent learning, classroom involvement and work with peers. It would also allow for a reduction in remediation and a better transition to first grade, she said.

The program will be put into place by utilizing the facilities and staffing the district already has, said William Zylinski, District Supervisor of Humanities.

This September there will be one full-day kindergarten class per elementary school with a class size of 24, he said.

School Board President Jack Martenak explained that previously there were six sections of half-day kindergarten in each elementary school. Now, there will be four sections of half day and one full day kindergarten class in each elementary school.

There will be a selection process through an anonymous lottery, Zylinski said.

On Wednesday, Aug. 1, all fully registered kindergarten students will be entered in a computer-generated lottery. The lottery will be done on Thursday, Aug. 2 and parents will be notified that their child is eligible for full-day kindergarten in Lacey on Monday, Aug. 6.

Parents with eligible children must notify the school district of participation in the program by Thursday, Aug. 9.

“Obviously we understand and recognize how important a full-day kindergarten program is to our littlest learners,” Superintendent Dr. Sandra Brower said. “We’re very, very excited. We wish and hope and anticipate that this could start the seeds to how we can offer a full-time kindergarten here in Lacey.”

The district tried to implement a program in 2005 through a referendum but it did not pass, Martenak said. The district needed additional facilities back then but with the decline in housing construction in Lacey, there has been a decrease in enrollment figures.

In the past, the state made a mandate requiring all schools to provide a full-time kindergarten but then the economy declined and the funds was not available, Board Member Maureen Tirella said, commending the administration for the pilot program.

The long-term goal is to make full-time kindergarten available to every student at minimal costs, he said. The 2012-13 program will be of no cost to the district since it is utilizing the district's facilities and current staff.

“During the course of this pilot, we’re going to learn a lot of things,” he said. “Not just about space but also about bussing and administration and lunch room and all those other things that are going to go into housing a full-time kindergarten.”

Resident Regina Discenza questioned the 2012 enrollment for kindergarten, which is 279. Discenza said the decrease in enrollment is “very good.” This year, 375 kindergarteners graduated. But the enrollment figure is generally lower because it doesn’t include private kindergartens, Zylinski pointed out.

“With the resources we have, we’re doing the right thing,” Vice President Eric Schubiger said, adding that he has some concerns. “I don’t think that any of our children in our district should be subject to a lottery. It is what it is.”

Despite those concerns, Schubiger recognizes the importance of a full-time kindergarten and is in full support of the program, he said.

“This is a good step towards our eventual goal. When we get there and how we get there is still a work in progress,” Martenak said. “At least it’s a start.”

“This is great,” one resident said during “It’s about time.”

JD July 21, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Continued from above: The other major point to consider, is that if the “True Kindergarten Enrollment” were to continue to drop fairly significantly, and actually end up slightly lower than 300 students (for the sake of this post lets use a number of 285 to 295) for the 2013-2014 School Year, then quite possibly by allowing 23 to 24 students in each of the 12 K-Classes (4 per School Building) then the required Classroom Space would be available without any major modifications to any of the 3 Elementary Schools in Lacey Township. Thus meaning, that the eventual full implementation of a Full-Day K-Program for “All” of Students in all 3 of the Elementary Schools in our School District could possibly be accomplished with very little if any impact on the taxpayers. And of course, with all of the focus on property taxes in the State of New Jersey, this would end up being a very positive thing.
Jen Royal July 22, 2012 at 01:15 PM
I find it horrible that they will be spending 30 percent more time on reading and 40 percent more time on math. That is what is wrong with the education system in America. There are no other subjects, just reading and math. No wonder kids are completely bored with school by the time they are in second grade! There isn't anything in school to pique their interest and get them excited about learning. Most 5-year-olds are not ready for a full day program anyway. It's sickening how this is becoming the trend everywhere because parents don't want to pay for daycare.
JD July 22, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Jen R-While, I certainly think that everyone is entitled to an opinion, I have to say that I have several strong disagreements with your thoughts that appear above. As such, a few quick things: 1-First off all, in my view the instruction of Reading and Writing in the Primary Grade Levels (Grades K, 1, and 2) is vitally important. Without the ability to read fluently, most of the other subjects cannot be fully understood. Without the ability to write well, students cannot clearly express in writing what they wish to. Thus, in my humble opinion students in Grades K, 1, and 2 need to read and write, and then read and write even more. 2-I have no idea what sources you are suggesting for the concept that 5 and 6 Year Olds are not ready for a Full-Day of School. Most of the recent studies by the Educational Guru’s/Experts that I have viewed about how 5 and 6 years olds process concepts and learn clearly show that they are ready for a Full-Day Kindergarten Program. Of course, a modified approach needs to be used with 5 and 6 Year Olds that is a bit different than students that might be 7, 8, or older. If you look at other nations that have superb Educational Systems, you will quickly see that they spend more time in school and begin to do so at a quite young age. The concept of a 6 to 7 Hour Kindergarten Program has been around in this nation and others for many years.
JD July 22, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Contined from above due to length: 3-I do agree with you that the Schools of the Future will have to make the entire learning process more enjoyable and exciting. I am honestly hoping that this will be the case with the Full-Day K Pilot Program starting in the Lacey Township School District in September of 2012. In my view, one of the largest pitfalls of the Educational System in the United State is that for the past several years, the curriculum and instruction model (topics covered and approach to instruct them) seems to be a mile wide and a few inches deep. Instead, much like those Nations that have superb Educational Systems, we need to move to a curriculum and instructional model that is a mile deep and a few inches wide. After reading the statements made by Dr. Brower and Dr. Clark, I believe the mile deep and a few inches wide approach is on the horizon here in the Lacey Township School District. Perhaps we now need to give them a bit of time to make those modifications.
CaptMorgan July 28, 2012 at 12:05 AM
If anyone has been in the Elem schools you can see their is no space in these buildings to go all in at the start. It would be great to put additions on these buidings, but I know that would hit us on the tax end. I dont think the PTO can come up with that much. They would also need to hire a teacher and an aid for each school just to make the numbers work out. I am interested in seeing how this works out. It is great that they are getting the ball rolling here though. I have a child going into K this year. We have our lotto number :) My other children have went through the half system and have turned out fine (so far). Their is only so much a 5 year old can take in. I am happy either way. I am one of the few. The one thing that did piss me off about this whole issue is I heard afew people saying that the lottery will be fixed. Really? Do you realize what a risk that would be on their part just get a kid or two makes it into it? Why in the world would they put themselves in that postion for someone? THINK PLEASE!

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