Interested in the community’s support for full-day kindergarten, Concord mom Maria Lucia Natkiel took measures into her own hands: she created her own survey and is sparking the conversation with the “Early Childhood Education Committee,”facilitated by Concord Superintendent Terri Forsten with Assistant Superintendent Donna Palley, reported the Concord Monitor. Here are some of her findings:
- 44 percent said a full-day kindergarten program would influence their decision to stay in or move to Concord, 19 percent said they would re-enter the workforce, 47 percent said it wouldn’t factor into any decisions.
- 57 percent would pay more in property taxes while 18 percent said they would not, and 25 percent were undecided.
Concord currently offers half-day kindergarten programs, but teachers and parents have advocated for full-day classes. Expanding the programs would help with logistics, may help encourage caregivers to reenter the workforce, and most importantly, help with child development:
“It’s hard because we have so much that we want to teach them, and two and a half hours doesn’t allow us to teach everything we want to teach them, be social and play,” Sarah Williams, kindergarten teacher at Mill Brook School, said.
The last two items – social interactions and play – are at odds with making sure children learn how to count, add and subtract one through 10, learn letters and get to the appropriate reading level.
A shorter class period keeps children from practicing their newly acquired knowledge and skills, Williams said. Transitions – moving from one activity to another after 10 or 15 minutes – are tough, too.
“When they’re engaged and settled and they have to stop and clean it up – it’s definitely tricky for them,” Williams said.
For kids, she said, consistency gained through staying a whole day in a classroom can reduce stress and improve development.
“It provides continuity in a child’s day,” Natkiel said. Plus, she said, “Concord has fantastic schools, which is why I moved here” from New York City.
Natkiel plans to present the findings of her survey to the Early Childhood Education Committee. Staffing and funding are a few of the committee’s concerns, since the state provides funding for half-day programs but not full-day. Right now, 94 of the state’s 153 school districts offer full day kindergarten, which has been shown to have greater learning gains per dollar spent than any other early childhood intervention. SB 228, sponsored by Senators Stiles, Watters, Boutin, and Feltes, would have fully funded programs for all school districts, but was tabled in the Senate in March.
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