Without establishing an all day kindergarten program at District 203 and with the upcoming implementation of state common core standards, the school day for kindergarten teachers and students would be insane, according to one of the district’s teachers.
As the district has been exploring adjusting enrollment boundaries and relocating students to different schools, it is also discussing the implementation of an all day kindergarten.
During the District 203 Board of Education meeting Tuesday night held in the auditorium at Naperville Central High School, the board heard a presentation outlining the benefits of an all-day kindergarten program. The discussion of all day kindergarten preceded the district’s Enrollment Capacity Study Commission’s recommendation Tuesday night. No action was taken in either matter.
While officials stressed the need for all day kindergarten, parents emphatically requested that the district take a closer look at the Enrollment Capacity Study Commission’s recommendation that the district use Map 6 before making any decisions.
Parents commented for almost two hours on the possible implementation of Map 6, with one parent calling it “asinine,” others saying the changes would not alleviate overcrowding at Mill Street Elementary School and other parents stating the moves would be overly intrusive for some students in the district.
Map 6 is tied to all day kindergarten and an explanation of all day kindergarten is presented in the materials associated with the map. If the district implements an all day kindergarten it needs to have additional space to accommodate students and programs, officials said.
While board members see the need for the all day kindergarten program, it raised concerns about the costs associated with it and asked administrators to find ways to be more creative so that the district doesn’t need to expend millions of dollars from the district's budget for construction.
Administrators including District Superintendent Mark Mitrovich told the board that if the district is to remain high performing, it is critical that an all-day kindergarten be implemented.
Based on common core standards, which will implement significant curriculum changes and also affect students in kindergarten, requiring a focus on literacy, math and science, officials said trying to teach students the additional material necessary in a two-and-half hour day would be exceedingly challenging.
With an all-day kindergarten program there are social and emotional benefits among students, said Jennifer Hester, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.
"There is also more student-initiated learning, independent learning and student-to-student interaction," she said. Students develop deeper relationships with each other and with their teacher and teachers have better relationships with students and parents.
Another positive impact to an all-day kindergarten is the need for less intervention, Hester said.
School Board Member Dave Weeks said that the district has not updated its kindergarten curriculum and it is not in the position to implement a program yet. He said that updating the curriculum might also help students do better requiring less intervention. He also asked administrators if a longer school day had been considered.
During the public comment period a parent commenting on the enrollment recommendation said that he understood that “all day daycare” was needed, but he asked that the board reconsider the recommendation for Map 6 and make changes at Mill Street that would better address overcrowding in the long term.
Another parent suggested that the Enrollment Capacity Study committee was guided to choose Map 6 because the district wants to implement an all day kindergarten and the committee had no choice but to lean in that direction.
“We have something that is a solution and that is a start,” Board Member Suzyn Price said about the all day kindergarten presentation. “This is a really good start and we need to move forward.”
Board Vice President Jackie Romberg said she was in favor of all day kindergarten with some tweaks to how the district would spend funds for the program.
“We need to be creative and I’m all for all day kindergarten, but I think we need to be creative,” Romberg said. “The $2 million doesn’t bother me, the construction cost bother me.”
The board asked for district administrators to take another look at all day kindergarten and find creative solutions that would address cost and space. The board did not make any decision in regard to Map 6 and also asked for the Enrollment Capacity Study to be placed on its agenda again on March 5. The meeting will be held at Naperville North High School.