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Fair Haven Superintendent of Schools Nelson Ribon Hosts Inaugural "Community Chat with Coffee"

Fair Haven Superintendent of Schools Nelson Ribon Hosts Inaugural "Community Chat with Coffee"
Fair Haven -- "Transition to a Full-Day Kindergarten" was the topic as Fair Haven Superintendent of Schools Nelson Ribon hosted his first "Community Chat with Coffee".

The event was held on the evening of Wednesday, February 19 in the All Purpose Room (APR) of Knollwood School on Hance Avenue.

A group of area parents has requested that the district consider transitioning to a full-day Kindergarten program from the current part-time program. The well-attended "Community Chat with Coffee", the first in a planned series, offered a timely opportunity for discussion on the topic.

"In a small community such as ours, I feel that we really should be meeting face-to-face and discussing how to best meet the needs of our students," said Ribon. "I am pleased that you are here at this inaugural event, but I also want to remind everyone here that my door is always open if you need to discuss a matter or concern with me."

As a step to providing a longer and more enriched Kindergarten day, Fair Haven expanded its program by 30 minutes at the start of the 2010-2011 school year. This brought Kindergarten class time to three hours per day. In addition, a "before-care" session was added prior to the start of "A.M." Kindergarten classes to allow parents to drop off their children at 8:00.

Ribon told the assembled parents and community members that while he is on board with the plans for a full-day Kindergarten, he needs to keep his eye on the bigger picture in order to provide an optimal learning experience for all students. He also emphasized the importance of examining what is needed for a full-day Kindergarten from all perspectives including the additional space, curriculum implications, instructional staff requirements, and the financial impact.

Key considerations for the district include the fact that expanding the existing program to full-day would require a minimum of three additional classrooms as well as the hiring of at least three additional teachers at a cost of $70,000.00 each. A full-day Kindergarten program also would not replace the need for targeted interventions now being provided as needed.

A mitigating factor for Fair Haven is the size of the current fourth-grade class, the largest in the district's history. With 140 students, it requires six sections with an average of 23 students in each one. During the 2016-17 through 2018-19 school years, additional classroom space and a minimum of three additional teachers will be needed to cover a sixth section of literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, Spanish, and possibly some additional subjects.

In addition, according to Ribon, any expansion to either one or both school buildings (Viola L. Sickles School on Willow Street and Knollwood School on Hance Avenue) would require approval by the county and state and would incur costs that would likely be in the seven-figure range. The approximate timeframe to build classrooms would be 2-1/2 years at best. The school administration has been collaborating with P.W. Moss and Associates, an engineering and project management firm, to evaluate existing space at both Sickles and Knollwood Schools. P.W. Moss also worked with the neighboring Little Silver School District, whose transition to full-day Kindergarten required two additional classrooms at a cost of approximately $1.2 million.

Space available within the community is also being explored as an option by school administrators.

Ribon also pointed out that not all parents are on board with the idea of full-day Kindergarten, and not all believe that it may be appropriate for all students. Additionally, the district is attracting new students despite the fact that full-day Kindergarten is not currently offered. "We have to keep many perspectives in mind as part of the process," Ribon said. "Our schools and any future plans for expansion will have an impact on our entire community, thus the process of gathering and sharing information takes time."

"Our school district is one of 17, out of 54, in Monmouth County that has had an increase in enrollment over the past seven years," Ribon added. "Fair Haven is a wonderful community that offers a great education to our students. It is a desirable place for many to live and raise their families." He also shared how standardized data shows that the district's students in grades three through eight are doing very well academically and outperforming many of their peers throughout the state in literacy and mathematics. "Complacency is not an option," he said. "We will continue to make adjustments as needed, while remaining fiscally responsible to our residents. With that said, our leadership team prides itself on staying current with the best practices and resources available to offer richer learning experiences for all of our children."

Ribon encouraged those present, as well as everyone in the community, to attend Fair Haven Board of Education meetings, to contact him, or to email suggestions and concerns to fhboe@fairhavenbe.org. The scheduled meeting dates, along with a great deal of valuable information about the district, can be found at www.fairhaven.edu.

Additional "Community Chat with Coffee" events are planned, and will be held monthly on a rotating basis of morning and evening hours to best fit the scheduling needs of area parents and community members. The Superintendent's next Community Chat will be on Wednesday, March 19 at both 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. in the All-Purpose Room of Knollwood School.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT -- Mary Ann Kampfe, Fair Haven School District Press Release Writer, kampfem@fairhavenbe.org or 908-347-8885

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