D-47 full-day kindergarten program has strong start

CRYSTAL LAKE – The new all-day kindergarten program at District 47 is off to a strong start with 86 percent of those enrolled opting for the full-day offering.

Jean Bevevino, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said 473 of 550 kindergartners enrolled in the 2013-14 school year will receive full-day classes. Of those, 116 are enrolled in the dual-language program.

2013 will be the first year the district offers full-day kindergarten after the board approved the program in December partly in response to a community survey showing high demand for the service.

“I thought it might be closer
to 80 percent or the high 70s, but there really was a need in our community, and a lot of people had been asking for this,” Bevevino said. “I’m excited that we are able to offer the two options to families.”

Methods on how to offer half-day and full-day kindergarten still are being developed, Bevevino said. She said the preferred option would be to keep the half-day and full-day students together, which would require all academic courses to be taught before lunch.

At lunch, half-day students would go home while the full-day children would have a break. Those students then would have “encores,” including art, music, health, library and physical education in the second half of the day.

Other options include busing half-day students to one facility, Bevevino said, but parents wanted their children to stay in their home school, or teaching the groups separately in the same room, which is not feasible because there are only seven to eight half-day students in each building and not enough teachers.

“We’re really trying to embed the half-day students into the full-day program and keep everyone at their home school,” she said. “We want to do what is best for families and fiscally responsible.”

Board member Ron Fetzner said full-day kindergarten is a topic parents have brought up to him for years and said he is glad to finally see it come to fruition. Fetzner said that with state academic standards increasing, every extra minute with students is valuable.

“I thought we were real responsible about not just jumping into it,” he said of implementing the program. “Now we’re excited we will be able to offer more services to our students and families.”

The district hired 8.5 full-time equivalent positions for the program, which is estimated to cost $5.5 million over five years. While officials wanted to avoid a fee, there will be a $135 monthly charge for the program – down from the $170 per month that was considered.

Families needing financial assistance can receive waivers. Bevevino said 88 of 90 waiver applications have been approved for next year.

Bevevino said she hopes the program will not require a fee in the future, but believes the district is off to a strong and fair start, especially considering her grandchildren in District 300 are in a program that costs $225 per month and uses a lottery for selection.

“We didn’t want to have to charge anything, and maybe someday we won’t have to,” she said. “But I think we’re off to a great start. I know all of the teachers are very excited and already have a lot of great ideas.”

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