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Full Day K: 'It Seems Like a No Brainer'

Supt. James Agostine will put together cost estimates for the Dec. 3 school board meeting.

A presentation on full day kindergarten Monday night convinced Board of Education members that it would benefit Monroe's children. Supt. of Schools James Agostine will prepare cost estimates for the school board to review as the budget process for fiscal year 2013-14 gets underway.

Out of 21 school districts in Fairfield County, Monroe, Newtown and Shelton are the only ones who still have half day kindergarten. According to a presentation by Sheila Casinelli and Deb Kovachi, children in half day kindergarten will be 40% behind students who took full day as they enter first grade.

"I think this board should have the resolve to do full day kindergarten," said board secretary, Mark Hughes. "We're the ones who set how the budget is spent. If the budget is cut, it's not on us, it's on those other boards and commissions."

Fellow school board member, Dr. Alan Vaglivelo, agreed and made a motion to approve switching to full day kindergarten.

"Is there any reason not to vote on full day kindergarten tonight?" Vaglivelo asked. "It seems like a no brainer."

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But he later withdrew it when other board members said they wanted to get more information on what's needed and what it will cost.

"It's a first read tonight," said Chairman Darrell Trump. "I don't want to rush through it."

Board member, Mark Antinozzi, expressed concern over the possibility of the board approving full day kindergarten, only for the funding not to be approved in the next budget, forcing cuts elsewhere.

"I don't want to see class sizes increase if we have to cut staff to do it," he said. "I hope we have support from parents at referendum time, as well as from the first selectman. I just hope we can afford it."

First Selectman Steve Vavrek attended the meeting.

"As an ex-officio member, I fully support full day kindergarten," Vavrek said.

However, he noted that some of the towns with full day K do not have their budgets voted on at a referendum. "We have to weigh that," he said. "We all live in a town which has a referendum system. We have to do it right the first time."

Vavrek said it's up to Agostine and his finance director, Gabriella DiBlasi, to "get the right numbers".

Voters passed the budget on the first referendum vote the last two times, but both included zero percent spending increases for Monroe's schools — a fact that makes some educators nervous about committing to spending the money needed for full day K.

Though there would be some cost increases, Agostine said some of it would be offset by savings such as $40,000 from the elimination of a mid-day bus run.

Antinozzi expressed his belief that board members should publicly back a change to full day kindergarten, because they are charged with advocating for "the best education" for Monroe's children.

"We have to set the policy," he said. "We have to set the course we're going to take. I think full day kindergarten is the best thing. We have to say we want it. We have to say, 'This is what we're going to do.'"

jim laguardia November 09, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Talk about a chance to leave a legacy??? Be the people in charge that gets full day kindergarten through in Monroe and that would be something tba hang your hats on.
Eric Booth November 09, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Having a daughter currently enrolled in the half-day program at Monroe El and another in 1st grade who just came from a full-day program in Arizona... I can say the difference is night and day for the child, teacher and parents alike! It's amazing what a teacher is able to achieve per student with the extra time. It's amazing what a child can benefit from getting to eat lunch with their classmates and to come home on the same bus she goes to school on. We were excited to move to Monroe for the schools, but were very disappointed to learn that our youngest would not get a similar experience as her older sister. She's done great with what she's experienced, but admittedly, half-day really leaves much to be desired for her mother and myself. It feels like she's repeating the PreK experience she had in Arizona (same number of hours, not curriculum). She was ready to move on like her big sister did to a full day of school. If anything, it would provide more time for the kids to have fun and spread their wings and the teachers won't feel like they have to cram all day's curriculum into a tiny 2.5-3 hour window. Which from what I gather is something Monroe values for it's children. I know my wife and I would agree it is a no-brainer and would cheer the decision as loud as possible!
Sarah November 09, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Eric- i am in the same position. I was very disappointed when I found out there is only a half day program. Luckily, my son isn't scheduled to begin Kindergarten until next year, so I may get my wish. Please consider attending the next Board Meeting on December 3rd to show your support of the full day program. I know it won't help you at this point, but it would really help parents in my situation with children going into Kindergarten next year and years to come! It will also help Monroe as a town because it would become even more desireable to those parents moving here! I came from Fairfield and just assumed they had a full day program- had I known in advance, that may have changed my mind into moving here - I am a full time working mom, so aside from the education benefits, the extra time in school is also helpful. I hope to see you on December 3rd at 7:30pm! I'll definitely be there - I am trying to recruit as many parents as possible to attend and show their support - feel free to pass it along!
Chief Waldo November 09, 2012 at 05:44 PM
I have two daughters who have now both completed their bachelor's degree. The older attended half day kindergarden, the younger, full day. They both did equally as well throughout their school years. When we moved to Monroe, both easily adapted to the Monroe school system, and went on to graduate from Masuk High with very good grades. Both also graduated from private colleges Magna Cum Laude. For us, the main benefit we found for the younger one attending full day was, convince. It was easier on us to have both of them attending school the same hours. Is there any substantial evidence from the area school systems that have full day kindergarden, that it improved student's learning in the long run? From the test results that are published each year, Monroe students seem to be doing pretty good in relation to the rest of the area. For students that are, supposedly, 40% behind when entering first grade, there doesn't seem to be any ill effects in the long term. I'm not sure the (probable) additional expense is worth the main benefit... convenience for some families.
Jacob's Mama November 09, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Woo-Hoo! So excited for this!
Alex November 09, 2012 at 05:59 PM
40% behind? Do they have a reference to the study they used to conclude that figure? All for it, if there's a reasonable way to pay for it.
Sarah November 09, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Please come show your support on December 3rd for the next BOE meeting! I will be there too!
christine November 09, 2012 at 06:58 PM
My older 3 kids had full day kindergarten, then we moved mid-year to Monroe while one was still in kindergarten. So we went from full to half day. The class in Monroe with the half day program was at the same academic point as the full-year program we moved from. There was virtually no difference. The extras we had in full day was lunch, recess, nap time, gym and music. All four of my kids in both full or half day kindergarten were reading by the end of the year, and proficient in math. The teachers in Monroe are excellent. In my personal experience full day is not a necessity, but it's certainly convenient for working parents.
Concerned mom November 09, 2012 at 07:25 PM
The board will discuss full day kindergarten on November 19th. It will be voted on on December 3rd. We need support and people to speak IN SUPPOPRT of this at both meetings. This is crucial. Kindergarten is no longer what it used to be when we all went to school. The curriculum now has these kids reading and writing. This is their foundation for their entire school career, regardless of cost it is a must.
New Kid in Town November 09, 2012 at 07:26 PM
I just moved to Monroe last year from Westport and my oldest was in the first wave of kids to have full day kindergarten...at the time they were 3 full days and 2 half days...it was a blessing even for that, but the board of ed had a hell of fight on their hands to get it approved both for budget reasons and because of backlash from parents...i think now it is a little more widely accepted and the board had no problem getting approval for 5 full days. Although my youngest is in Kindergarten and enrolled in Kinderacademy..I will be at the Dec 3rd meeting to show my support!
Stephanie G November 09, 2012 at 07:34 PM
For those who are interested, here is a link to a report on the findings of a study done on the differences between full and half day kindergarten programs: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2004/2004078.pdf. The study was done over a decade ago, but I can't imagine that most of the findings would have changed that significantly (even with the changes in technology available during the same period). I haven't had a chance to read it myself yet, but I have a business trip next week and this could very well be my airplane reading.
Alan Vaglivelo November 09, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Full day Kindergarten is being discussed in light of the expectations for students regarding the upcoming Common Core national standards. To reach mastery at the end of Kindergarten, students will need a full day program or they will be at a disadvantage. The Common Core national standards will be more demanding than the current standards/curriculum. Much more will be expected of students when the new curriculum goes into practice in 2013-2014. The literacy standards for Kindergarten will be much more demanding.
Sarah November 09, 2012 at 09:32 PM
In that case - I will also be at the meeting on November 19th! Thanks!
Rapture November 10, 2012 at 02:35 AM
I can guarantee that a full day Kindergarten program will not include nap time, and may not even include a mandated recess, but will certainly include lunch amongst the extra hours of vigorous pencil pushing and sitting idle at desks or small tables. It's great that working parents need cheap babysitters,and that everyone is more concerned with Common Core Standards being tested than letting a child be a child. Kindergarten was designed for children to play and learn how to socialize, now kindergarten has become the new first grade and in pre-school even children are being asked to read and write. Who's to blame when these children are in Presidential Office and can't hold a conversation with a peer?
Chris November 14, 2012 at 06:53 AM
I have lived in Monroe for 14 years and both of my children had the 1/2 day program. Now, my daughter is in a very good private college and doing well while my son is consistently an honor roll student in the STEM program. Someone had goven this link to a study: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2004/2004078.pdf, which of coarse concluded that the children in full day were ahead of the ones in half day. Obviously,with more instruction time they will be ahead after 1 year. However, I wonder does it have any real long term effect? Have the students leveled out by 4th grade? 8th grade? end of high school? I could not find anything to prove or deny this which should be the real question. If someone has information on this, please post so we all (including the BOE) can review it and make an educated decision on this topic. If possible, maybe the BOE can compare our district (as well as the other few who are also 1/2 day) to others of similiar size and demographics standardized test scores at different grade intervals to see if it really does make a long term differenence.
Alan Vaglivelo November 14, 2012 at 12:40 PM
The current Kindergarten curriculum will change over to what is called the Common Core State Standards next year. To meet the new learning objectives students will need a full day program or be at a disadvantage. In general, Kindergarten students will be expected to perform what is now 1st grade work. There are no long term studies on this because the curriculum will not be rolled out until next year.
Todd Fox December 06, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Perhaps it's the Common Core Standards which need to be changed, not the school schedule. The Common Core Standards do not seem to take in to account the concept of "readiness". Children read when their brains are ready to read, not because they are pushed in to doing it at an earlier and earlier age. Full day kindergarten is a great idea on some levels. It's a good alternative to daycare. But this raises questions. Several parents have mentioned that full day kindergarten is a wonderful "convenience" for them. If the "convenience" of full day kindergarten is the new standard of what government provides, will we soon see demands for taxpayer funded nursery "school"? Is the community responsible for providing care for four year olds? For three year olds? Toddlers? How shall we determine the age at which parents are expected to provide care for their own children? I'm not trying to be unreasonable, or attacking the value of education, but parents are responsible for the children they brought in to this world. I wish we could afford to give parents everything they want for their children, in terms of school and sports. Unfortunately in this economy a line has to be drawn at what the children need instead. Parents are responsible for the primary care of their children and for any extras.
Alan Vaglivelo December 06, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Full day Kindergarten is necessary to meet the upcoming state mandates for the Common Core State Standards. Students in Kindergarten will be expected to perform work on a first grade level to meet the benchmark goals. If Kindergarten remains half-day the students will be at a significant disadvantage compared to students who attend full day programs. Kindergarten used to be about socialization and learning basic pre-academic skills. Now they are expected to do the work equivalent of first grade learners. Therefore, the academic requirements for each grade level will be intensified. If you google "common core state standards" it should give you plenty of information. With regards to Pre-school, it is already mandated for children with special needs. Children who do not require special education services can attend for a fee.
Todd Fox December 06, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Perhaps it's the Common Core Standards which need to be changed, not the school schedule. The Common Core Standards do not seem to take in to account the concept of "readiness". Children read and write when their brains are ready to read and write, not because they are pushed in to doing it at an earlier and earlier age. Really, what is the point of all the pushing? Many parents are already holding their children back from kindergarten until they are six because they know the curriculum is too demanding. These new standards are creating a monster and they're putting too much stress on children.
Sarah December 09, 2012 at 01:13 AM
My son is in day-care full time and is learning how to read and write. He comes home with homework every week. To go to half-day Kindergarten that isn't going to keep up with what he is learning now in day-care at age 4 will put him at a major disadvantage. Because of these Common Core Standards, he is being prepared now and needs a program that can keep up with the progress he is making. I don't want to send him to a less intensive program than what he is having now. He gets plenty of time to play and interact with his peers, but he is also learning so many valuable lessons. Full day Kindergarten will allow those things to continue while also encouraging a stronger curriculum. How much can really get accomplished in 3 hours of half-day kindergarten?

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