Panel Outlines Proposed Full Day Kindergarten At Town Hall Meeting
The $10.3 million project would result in $68.17 tax increase for average assessed home at $410,000. Some raised concerns, while many others voiced their support for the project.
Numerous Summit residents came together Wednesday night at the Full Day Kindergarten Town Hall meeting in Jefferson Primary Center to learn more about the proposed project, the impact it would have on taxpayers and to engage in an open dialogue.
Some residents voiced their support for the project, stating that a full day of Kindergarten would better prepare students for their K-12 education and give students a more competitive edge in the global work force, and ultimately attract even more businesses and families to the city.
Other residents asked the panelists for more clarification about the project and the overall tax impact, especially for residents who don’t have students in the district, and why more pressing issues aren’t being addressed first, such as overcrowding in some of the schools. A few residents also argued that attracting more businesses and families to the community through this full day program would only add to the overcrowding issue throughout the district, especially since recent demographic studies show that class sizes in certain grade levels in Summit will continue to grow in the coming years.
Business Administrator Louis Pepe said the Board of Education has a holistic approach when assessing facility needs, and expanding two elementary schools to accommodate Full Day Kindergarten is not the only project on which they are focused.
Right now, additional top priorities include reconfiguring existing space to accommodate growing class sizes in certain buildings, establishing better security in all schools, and upgrading science labs, Pepe said. These priorities are a part of the district’s five-year facility plan, which continues to evolve, year after year.
Superintendent Nathan Parker said the district is well on its way with staging and financing those projects and the decision to implement Full Day Kindergarten needs to be made considering all facility needs.
To renovate Jefferson and Wilson Elementary Schools to accommodate Full Day Kindergarten, the estimated project cost is $10.3 million, which would result in an estimated $68.17 tax increase for the average assessed home at $410,000, Pepe said. Additional personnel would also be added, including nine teachers, 8 ½ aides, 2 ½ specialists and additional custodial staff, which would be an estimated total cost of $1,089,298.
Here is the district's proposed Full Day Kindergarten Construction Cost Estimate:
|Wilson Primary Center Expansion||
|Jefferson Primary Center Expansion||
|Proposed Expansion||Wilson Primary Center||Jefferson Primary Center|
|Construction||$2.1 million||$6.3 million|
Pepe said when the Summit Board of Education reaches a good proposal for a facility need, they then approach the Board of School Estimate for approval. Panelists said the Full Day Kindergarten proposal is expected to be brought before the Board of School Estimate in April.
Kathie Priestley, Early Childhood Education Consultant and one of the panelists at the meeting, said there are studies that prove children benefit more from Full Day Kindergarten. They are better prepared for elementary school, see faster gains in literacy and language arts, and better attendance, among others, she said. In addition, the state’s Common Core Standards went into effect this year and regardless of whether students go to kindergarten for a full day or a half-day, they will be expected to meet the same rigorous benchmarks.
Priestley said 45 states have accepted the Common Core Standards and 76 percent of school districts in the state currently offer a full day program.
Assistant Superintendent Julie Glazer said a full day program will give the students and teachers the unique gift of time — double instructional time, more time spent on science, math, social studies and development of language skills, more time on task, more time focused on social skills, and more time for transition between activities. In turn, teachers can then spend more time focusing on students to identify their strengths and weaknesses, address any issues early on, and better prepare the students for first grade.
Felix Gil, Principal of Summit’s Primary Centers and one of the panelists, said in his experience, a full day kindergarten program is better because it allows for more direct, individual work, more small group work, more time spent on music and art, and, in some cases, a smaller student-to-teacher ratio. In fact, if Summit went forward with this project, there would only be 20 students in each classroom versus the current 40 students per classroom in the district's half-day kindergarten program.
Gil said some families do utilize outside kindergarten programs in Summit and the surrounding areas, which vary in cost and approach. Because of this, students coming into kindergarten are on all different learning levels. Therefore, a full day program would level the playing field and “standardize the kindergarten experience.”
Samantha Heimple, a kindergarten teacher at Jefferson Primary Center, said she thinks a full day program will play an important role in continuing the strong and unique educational experience in Summit Public Schools.
Heimple said it’s difficult to fit all of the required curriculum into a half-day program. With the expanded Common Core Standards, she said there simply is not enough time to fit everything in.
Jennifer Schwarzenbek, a kindergarten teacher at Franklin Elementary School, said students come into her classroom on all different learning levels because outside programs greatly vary. By establishing a full day program, she thinks there will be a seamless transition from kindergarten to first grade, and will better prepare students for the rest of their education.