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District 304 reopens talks on all-day kindergarten

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 11:41 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – Geneva School District 304 plans to once again put all-day kindergarten to a vote in February.

The District 304 Board on Monday heard a recommendation from the district’s kindergarten committee to implement a full-day kindergarten program for all students in the grade. Under the program, parents could still have their children participate in a half-day segment of the program, said Andrew Barrett, district director of learning and teaching.

Educators last recommended full-day kindergarten for Geneva in 2008, but board members decided against it because of a lack of funds and space.

Additional school building space is one of many factors that have changed in the last six years – another being the implementation of state common core standards that are specific to kindergarten. Barrett said students will be better poised to meet the standards under a full-day model.

“We believe it’s the best opportunity … to support all of our kids,” Barrett said.

A full-day kindergarten program might cost the district about $1.14 million annually, which is $352,650 more than the cost to maintain its current half-day program, which includes additional services for at-risk students and students with individualized education plans. There would also be an additional one-time start-up cost of $78,000, Barrett said.

The committee also explored the possibility of providing a tuition-based, full-time kindergarten program to parents that wanted more than just half-day programming for children.

Financial estimates were not provided on Monday for such a model because the district is not certain how much demand there might be for such a program.

“I’d rather at least have the option of the tuition model if that was a happy medium that they could find,” Geneva parent Brian Maloney said outside of the meeting. He attended the Monday meeting because his two sons, ages 3 and 5, will be future kindergarteners in the district.

Bob McQuillan, a Geneva TaxFACTS founder, also attended the meeting. He said the district should wait until the state mandates full-day kindergarten.

“I think that by saying the state is going to mandate it, it’s an excuse for them to approve it,” he said.

Residents are invited to attend the next regular school board meeting on Jan. 27 to share their opinion on a full-day kindergarten program. The district will then make a formal recommendation and request board action at its Feb. 10 meeting, Barrett said.

School officials plan to post information about the proposed kindergarten programming on the district website today.

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