Residents weigh in on full-day kindergarten

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Thu., Dec. 15, 2011
Tracy-Lynn Fox said she was for full-day kindergarten across the board. Photos by Steve Smith.
Tracy-Lynn Fox said she was for full-day kindergarten across the board. Photos by Steve Smith.

On Dec. 12, the Glastonbury Board of Education held a public hearing on whether or not to implement full-day kindergarten in the town’s schools. The board had heard an informational presentation at its meeting on Nov. 28.

Many residents spoke in favor of the idea of full-day kindergarten, citing reasons including that it coincides with the schedules that many children are already accustomed to if they attend full-day daycare, and that studies show that kids gain an advantage as they enter first grade.

Other residents weren’t so sure. Some even presented studies to indicate that some students are actually put at a disadvantage after attending full-day kindergarten.

Resident Tracy-Lynn Fox, a parent and pre-school teacher, said there is more to a child’s learning than academics. “There is an emotional and social piece to one’s success as a learner,” Fox said. “If space is available within our elementary schools to accommodate a full-day program, the benefits would be overwhelming. Our teachers would have the ability to fine-tune the curriculum and to further concentrate on the academic piece of learning, while having the available time to work with our children on their emotional and social development as future learners,” she said.

Resident Melissa Day said her daughter tried both half- and full-day kindergarten with while living in Holliston, Mass. She explained that her daughter struggled with the half-day program. “[She] came home every day frustrated, with never enough time in class to do what she needed to do,” Day said. “She was just down every day. It was heartbreaking.”

Day made the decision to have her daughter repeat kindergarten the next year, this time in a full-day program. “What a difference,” she said. “I can’t even begin to express how happy she was and how settled she was. They were able to give her more time to work on things she was behind in.”

Day added that in her former school district, there was a tuition charged for full-day kindergarten. “It was difficult, but they also had financial assistance for those who needed it,” she said.

Some residents said the full-day kindergarten may not be as beneficial as it seems on the surface. Resident Lillian Tanski said she has some serious reservations. “In the research that I have done,” she said, “there doesn’t seem to be much of a corollary to districts like Glastonbury. That makes it difficult to draw comparisons to the positive studies. More so, I’m very concerned that many of the benefits of full-day kindergarten don’t accrue and last through third grade, or especially fifth grade. I wonder about starting a new program that could be very costly, that in the end may have kindergarteners that have learned 25 percent more, but doesn’t have fifth-graders and certainly not 18-year-olds or adults that are better educated individuals.”

“It depends,” said resident Thomas Kasper, who advocated for the idea of full-day programs being an option for families, as opposed to a requirement. “Every child is different, and in every family, children are different.” Kasper said that of his six children who have gone to school in Glastonbury, some would have thrived in full-day kindergarten and some would have struggled.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Alan Bookman tried to answer many of the residents’ concerns, particularly about the budget implications, stating unequivocally that it would not cause there to be cuts anywhere else in the district’s budget or programs. “That is something I will not do,” Bookman said. “I will not sacrifice any other grade level… in any direction. It’s not that we’re going to do this at the cost of huge classes in other grades. We have board guidelines for class size, and I expect to follow those guidelines.”

Bookman said the full-day kindergarten would be an option for parents, and half-day would still be available. He added that it’s very difficult to gauge long-term retention, and also to compare Glastonbury to other towns, because the variables are too great, but that the studies are mostly positive on both counts.

Further discussions on full-day kindergarten will take place during the Board of Education’s budget hearings on Jan. 3, 4 and 5, at the GHS library. Officials said they would take whatever time is necessary to further explore and discuss the ramifications.
“This could be a long conversation,” said board member James Zeller.

“It is a very important initiative that we could undertake here in Glastonbury,” said Board of Education Chair Susan Karp. “Even if it does mean staying [at meetings] very late at night, that’s what we’re expected to do. So, rest up over the holidays.”

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