By Lisa Capobianco
With the new school year just around the corner, all eight elementary schools are ready to welcome new students to the first full-day kindergarten program.
Assistant Superintendent Karen Smith said all school administrators and staff members are excited for the first year of the program to begin on August 29, especially since the curriculum will be more extensive than the previous one.
“The enthusiasm on part of the staff is extraordinary,” Smith said. “The pressure is off to know that [teachers] only have a half hour to get [one subject] done.”
Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski said he is thrilled for the new program, calling it the result of hard work that Smith and other school administrators accomplished in order to turn full-day kindergarten into a reality.
“I’m excited about this new initiative,” Goralski said. “It didn’t come as a surprise.”
The new curriculum for kindergarteners will allow teachers to “dig deeper” in math, reading, phonics and other subjects. Smith said more time in the classroom means more activities that involve language development and the strengthening of fine motor skills like handwriting.
“That’s creativity we weren’t able to tap into before,” Smith said.
Each kindergarten class will have a maximum of 18 students. Smith said all the preparations for each classroom are settled, including supplies and furniture. Transportation to and from the schools is also settled, but buses will be available for students in grades one and up on Thursday, August 29, so parents of the kindergarteners will have the opportunity to say goodbye to their children on the first day of school.
Kindergarteners will be able to start taking the bus August 30. Smith said this arrangement is a great way for five-year-olds and their parents to start a new transition.
“We found that most parents will take time off from work because they want to see their child go into their new school,” Smith said. “It’s a nice way for parents to bring their children in and take videos…and pictures.”
Back in May, The Board of Education was able to save its proposed full-day kindergarten program, even though reductions were made during the budget process. The Board of Finance and the Town Council left the school board with $1.1 million less than what they asked for.
Administrators did not want to eliminate planned improvements in technology upgrades, school safety and the full-day kindergarten program, and this reduction led the school board to sacrifice its SOAR enrichment program for gifted students. Although two full-time positions associated with the SOAR program were eliminated, these staff members will now serve as full-time kindergarten teachers this year at Hatton Elementary School, reported Smith.