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Could All-Day Kindergarten Be in Geneva By Next Year?

School Board members agree they want to pursue the option "aggressively," but many questions remain about cost, space and planning.

Could All-Day Kindergarten Be in Geneva By Next Year?
Geneva School Board members said Monday night that they want to aggressively pursue all-day kindergarten as an option for parents of School District 304 students.

But almost in the same breath, they expressed concerns about the cost, the curriculum and how equitable that option would be when some students will choose to stay in half-day classes.

"I would like us to pursue this aggressively," School Board Vice President Kelly Nowak said. "I think it’s way past time."

St. Charles School District 303 already has  all-day kindergarten classes. The cost there is $219.44 per month, per student. Students attend kindergarten from 8:40 a.m. to 3 p.m., the same as other students. They are bussed to school and can purchase lunch or bring their own.

Geneva took a hard look at the option back in 2007 and 2008, creating a task force that recommended implementation of the full-day option. But the board decided not to pursue full-day kindergarten at that time, primarily because of the cost.

Among the costs that will be considered in the next several months are the space requirements at schools, transportation, lunch programs and the estimated addition of 8.5 kindergarten teachers. A full list of "to-do's" is provide on the School District 304 website.

"It’s going to take at least a year of study to see how this might be implemented," District 304 Superintendent Kent Mutchler told the board Monday night.

School Board member Bill Wilson said he felt implementation by the 2014-15 school year would be "very aggressive" and 2015-16 would be more realistic.

Typically, parents must pay an additional fee for full-day kindergarten classes. Some families can't afford those fees and others simply will prefer to opt for a half-day. Wilson and the other board members said they were concerned about the equitability of a system in which some students attend half-day classes and others full-day classes.

"There’s going to have to be some way to make sure all of these kids are on the same par when they transfer to first grade," Wilson said.

Board members agreed to establish a task force to examine the contingencies of implementing full-day kindergarten. School Board President Mark Grosso suggested a forum to gather public input, and Nowak and boardmember Mary Stith said they'd like to see a timeline put together as quickly as possible.

Driving some of the urgency is the adoption of a common-core curriculum mandated by the state of Illinois and adopted by most states in U.S.  The target date for implementation of the new common-core assessment is the 2014‐15 school year, so Geneva educators are hoping that the planning of all-day kindergarten can be incorporated with the planning for common-core curriculum.

"As we look at common core, we have to be thinking how it fits in," Nowak said.

Geneva schools did improve the kindergarten curriculum as a result of the studies it did in 2007 and 2008, starting the "Foundations" program for students who needed academic help in preparation for first grade.

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