Nearly nine months after the school district unveiled its full day kindergarten pilot with a lottery system, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Vanessa Clark announced that a program would be open to all Lacey kindergarteners in September.
At approximately $254,000, the district will be implementing five full day kindergarten classes in each elementary school with a projected average class size of 25 students, Clark said during a report on the pilot program at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
“We are very happy to be making this announcement this evening,” she said.
The district unveiled its full day kindergarten pilot in July, with a lottery selecting 72 kindergarteners in August. Each elementary school had one full day kindergarten class and four half day kindergarten classes.
According to the state Department of Education, the kindergarten year is critical in laying a strong foundation for students, Clark said. More recently, there has been a push for kindergarteners to acquire skills useful for later grades.
“So we can’t afford to wait anymore,” she said.
Kindergarteners in a full day program are more prepared for school, spend 30 percent more time on literacy and spend 46 percent more time on mathematics, she said. They display enhanced emotional, social and behavioral developments and demonstrate reduced retention and remediation rates.
Through the evaluation of facilities, staffing and enrollment, the district determined that implementing the program could be accomplished without a referendum, unlike previous years.
The total cost for implementation is $254,000. The break down is as follows:
- Staffing: 2 kindergarten teachers, $148,000; 3 paraprofessionals, $102,000
- Transportation: 2 buses, $40,000 a year/lease
- Kindergarten Supplies: Teacher resources, $48,000
- Kindergarten Equipment: desks, playground equipment, $46,000
- Facilities Renovations: Bathrooms, sinks, $50,000
The district would find an $180,000 in budget savings by eliminating half day bus runs.
The Board of Education approved the solicitation of bus bids at Tuesday’s meeting.
The buildings can accommodate up to 360 kindergarteners, although the district does not expect that many students to enroll in the program, Clark said.
“Our classrooms in each of the elementary schools are currently kindergarten ready,” she said.
An aide, or paraprofessional, would be assigned to each kindergarten class. Only hiring two additional teachers and three paraprofessionals, the district would also be utilizing current staff.
The curriculum would be a balanced schedule of literacy, math, science, social studies and more, Clark said. An example of a schedule included shared reading, guided reading, math explorations, independent reading and a writing workshop.
“We will be spending considerable time this summer with our full day kindergarten teachers to enhance the schedule,” Clark said.
All kindergarteners will have access to school district services such as speech, Clark said.
Resident Regina Discenza questioned how current full day kindergarteners have made the transition into the program.
“Have there been any incidents of children not being able to tolerate the day and have there been meltdowns? Did anyone have to drop out or anything like that?” she said.
“There has been an adjustment, as there is for any student entering school for the first time but generally, those students have been succeeding and the program has been going very well,” Clark said.
Resident Bill Moss asked how the district would place students who are currently in the full day program and those who did not make it into the pilot since educational levels may differ.
“We are going to pay careful attention to all of the students obviously,” Clark said. “The same decisions we would make for half day students, we would make for full day students.”
The district would look at teacher recommendations, progress and developmental readiness, she said. Intervention strategies are also being discussed.
By implementing a full day kindergarten program, the district will ultimately be eliminating the half day program, Developmental Kindergarten, which students who may have special needs enlist in before kindergarten, and Transitional First, which some students enroll in before first grade.
Based on what the district has experienced and researched, those Developmental Kindergarten and Transitional First are not “meeting the needs of students,” Superintendent Dr. Sandra Brower said.
“We couldn’t be more excited about this program,” she said. “We know that we will continue to have challenges. We know that at the earliest level for our students, your children, that is where we’re going to embrace variation.”
The district will be working with the teachers on how to differentiate instruction, learning and assessments.
Board member Jack Martenak has waited nine years for a kindergarten program to be implemented within the Lacey Township School District.
“I’m very glad that we could see this come to fruition,” he said.
Although implementing such a program takes time and “hard work,” in the long term, thousands of students will be able to take advantage of this opportunity, President Eric Schubiger said.
“In the end, we have a product that we’re going to be proud of,” he said. “In 13 years, every student will have gone through a full day kindergarten in this district."
Dates to Remember:
- Wednesday, March 6: Kindergarten Orientation at 6 p.m.
- Throughout March and April: parent information meetings will be held.
- Thursday, April 18: “It’s Elementary” Family Academic Night will be held for all elementary school parents. A variety of topics and initiatives will be discussed.
- Wednesday, August 21: Kindergarten Open House