District 47 eyeing all-day kindergarten

CRYSTAL LAKE – District 47 could roll out full-day kindergarten next year, with parents paying for it.

If approved, the fee-based program would start in the 2013-14 school year at all District 47 schools, according to a recommendation presented Thursday at a Curriculum Committee meeting. Parents still would have the option of half-day kindergarten.

For the past year, administrators have researched everything from the cost of full-day kindergarten to whether there is space for it, and said the program will better prepare students for more rigorous educational standards introduced by the state.

“We want to make sure our children are well-prepared,” said Jean Bevevino, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment. “Half day is becoming more and more difficult to get what they need.”

If approved, the fee for full-day kindergarten will be set by the school board, but will not exceed $170 a month for each kindergartner.

The fee can be waived for those who can’t afford it, and the fee could be less after the district’s financial review committee analyzes budget projections.

A handful of school districts in McHenry County have full-day kindergarten, including districts 200, 300, 26 and 158. About 5 percent of kindergartners in Illinois have school all day, every day, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

District 47 Superintendent Donn Mendoza said D-300 charges for its full-day classes and D-158 does not.

Administrators were unclear about how much it would cost to implement full-day kindergarten, but said fees would not cover the entire program.

It’s difficult to say how many children will sign up for all-day kindergarten until registration in March, Mendoza said.

The number of children enrolled will determine how many more teachers, if any, the district will need to hire.

Each new teacher costs the district between $50,000 and $55,000 a year in salary and benefits, the superintendent said.

Assuming the program is approved, and if all families opt for full-day kindergarten, it could mean 15 to 17 new teachers.

Kindergarten enrollment at District 47 has been flat at 700 students for the past two years, and administrators said they expect the same next school year.

District officials have considered closing a school because of declining enrollment, and recently the public library has expressed interest in a building, should one be shuttered. But district officials say slowing enrollment has allowed them to move forward with the full-day kindergarten program.

“We didn’t have the space to do this years ago,” Bevevino, the assistant superintendent, said after the meeting.

“I don’t know how the rest of the board will feel, but personally I’m not interesting in waiting,” school board member Ruth Scifo said at Thursday’s committee meeting.

At a meeting last week, the school board directed Mendoza to research the possibility of closing a school.

The school board has a loaded agenda going in to its monthly meeting Monday. Besides a vote on full-day kindergarten, the district will consider its 2013 tax levy.

The board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at South Elementary School, 601 Golf Road, Crystal Lake.

If you go

What: District 47 school board

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: South Elementary School, 601 Golf Road, Crystal Lake

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