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Full Day K: 'It Seems Like a No Brainer'

Supt. James Agostine will put together cost estimates for the Dec. 3 school board meeting.

A presentation on full day kindergarten Monday night convinced Board of Education members that it would benefit Monroe's children. Supt. of Schools James Agostine will prepare cost estimates for the school board to review as the budget process for fiscal year 2013-14 gets underway.

Out of 21 school districts in Fairfield County, Monroe, Newtown and Shelton are the only ones who still have half day kindergarten. According to a presentation by Sheila Casinelli and Deb Kovachi, children in half day kindergarten will be 40% behind students who took full day as they enter first grade.

"I think this board should have the resolve to do full day kindergarten," said board secretary, Mark Hughes. "We're the ones who set how the budget is spent. If the budget is cut, it's not on us, it's on those other boards and commissions."

Fellow school board member, Dr. Alan Vaglivelo, agreed and made a motion to approve switching to full day kindergarten.

"Is there any reason not to vote on full day kindergarten tonight?" Vaglivelo asked. "It seems like a no brainer."

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But he later withdrew it when other board members said they wanted to get more information on what's needed and what it will cost.

"It's a first read tonight," said Chairman Darrell Trump. "I don't want to rush through it."

Board member, Mark Antinozzi, expressed concern over the possibility of the board approving full day kindergarten, only for the funding not to be approved in the next budget, forcing cuts elsewhere.

"I don't want to see class sizes increase if we have to cut staff to do it," he said. "I hope we have support from parents at referendum time, as well as from the first selectman. I just hope we can afford it."

First Selectman Steve Vavrek attended the meeting.

"As an ex-officio member, I fully support full day kindergarten," Vavrek said.

However, he noted that some of the towns with full day K do not have their budgets voted on at a referendum. "We have to weigh that," he said. "We all live in a town which has a referendum system. We have to do it right the first time."

Vavrek said it's up to Agostine and his finance director, Gabriella DiBlasi, to "get the right numbers".

Voters passed the budget on the first referendum vote the last two times, but both included zero percent spending increases for Monroe's schools — a fact that makes some educators nervous about committing to spending the money needed for full day K.

Though there would be some cost increases, Agostine said some of it would be offset by savings such as $40,000 from the elimination of a mid-day bus run.

Antinozzi expressed his belief that board members should publicly back a change to full day kindergarten, because they are charged with advocating for "the best education" for Monroe's children.

"We have to set the policy," he said. "We have to set the course we're going to take. I think full day kindergarten is the best thing. We have to say we want it. We have to say, 'This is what we're going to do.'"

Alan Vaglivelo November 14, 2012 at 12:40 PM
The current Kindergarten curriculum will change over to what is called the Common Core State Standards next year. To meet the new learning objectives students will need a full day program or be at a disadvantage. In general, Kindergarten students will be expected to perform what is now 1st grade work. There are no long term studies on this because the curriculum will not be rolled out until next year.
Todd Fox December 06, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Perhaps it's the Common Core Standards which need to be changed, not the school schedule. The Common Core Standards do not seem to take in to account the concept of "readiness". Children read when their brains are ready to read, not because they are pushed in to doing it at an earlier and earlier age. Full day kindergarten is a great idea on some levels. It's a good alternative to daycare. But this raises questions. Several parents have mentioned that full day kindergarten is a wonderful "convenience" for them. If the "convenience" of full day kindergarten is the new standard of what government provides, will we soon see demands for taxpayer funded nursery "school"? Is the community responsible for providing care for four year olds? For three year olds? Toddlers? How shall we determine the age at which parents are expected to provide care for their own children? I'm not trying to be unreasonable, or attacking the value of education, but parents are responsible for the children they brought in to this world. I wish we could afford to give parents everything they want for their children, in terms of school and sports. Unfortunately in this economy a line has to be drawn at what the children need instead. Parents are responsible for the primary care of their children and for any extras.
Alan Vaglivelo December 06, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Full day Kindergarten is necessary to meet the upcoming state mandates for the Common Core State Standards. Students in Kindergarten will be expected to perform work on a first grade level to meet the benchmark goals. If Kindergarten remains half-day the students will be at a significant disadvantage compared to students who attend full day programs. Kindergarten used to be about socialization and learning basic pre-academic skills. Now they are expected to do the work equivalent of first grade learners. Therefore, the academic requirements for each grade level will be intensified. If you google "common core state standards" it should give you plenty of information. With regards to Pre-school, it is already mandated for children with special needs. Children who do not require special education services can attend for a fee.
Todd Fox December 06, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Perhaps it's the Common Core Standards which need to be changed, not the school schedule. The Common Core Standards do not seem to take in to account the concept of "readiness". Children read and write when their brains are ready to read and write, not because they are pushed in to doing it at an earlier and earlier age. Really, what is the point of all the pushing? Many parents are already holding their children back from kindergarten until they are six because they know the curriculum is too demanding. These new standards are creating a monster and they're putting too much stress on children.
Sarah December 09, 2012 at 01:13 AM
My son is in day-care full time and is learning how to read and write. He comes home with homework every week. To go to half-day Kindergarten that isn't going to keep up with what he is learning now in day-care at age 4 will put him at a major disadvantage. Because of these Common Core Standards, he is being prepared now and needs a program that can keep up with the progress he is making. I don't want to send him to a less intensive program than what he is having now. He gets plenty of time to play and interact with his peers, but he is also learning so many valuable lessons. Full day Kindergarten will allow those things to continue while also encouraging a stronger curriculum. How much can really get accomplished in 3 hours of half-day kindergarten?

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