GENEVA – Geneva School Board members Monday voted 6-1 to implement all-day kindergarten starting this fall.
Districtwide kindergarten enrollment will be from 4 to 7 p.m. March 4 at Fabyan Elementary School, Harrison Street Elementary School, Heartland Elementary School, Mill Creek Elementary School, Western Avenue Elementary School and Williamsburg Elementary School. Children entering kindergarten must be 5 years old by Sept. 1.
Parents also will be given the option to enroll their children in half-day kindergarten, which is offered now. Board member David Lamb, who voted “no,” was concerned about the quality of education that children enrolled in half-day kindergarten would receive.
“For parents who opt for half day, will these children receive the same level of curriculum that they do now?” Lamb asked.
Geneva School District 304 Superintendent Kent Mutchler said the curriculum would “be different, but pretty similar.”
“The whole notion of full-day is that it becomes the default,” Mutchler said. “They may end up missing out on some things. We will do our best to keep the core areas. I can’t promise you they will get the same curriculum as they are getting now.”
Other board members said they supported going ahead with all-day kindergarten, but want to see costs contained.
“I would like to see how we can absorb as much of this cost as we can,” School Board Vice-President Kelly Nowak 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, including additional services for at-risk students and students with individualized education plans.
There also would be an additional one-time startup cost of $78,000.
Bob McQuillan, a Geneva TaxFACTS founder, also spoke at the meeting and voiced his opposition to moving ahead with all-day kindergarten.
“Look at the research,” McQuillan said, in addressing school board members. “All-day kindergarten does not have long-term benefits.”
He also said the idea for a tuition-based program should not be discarded because some parents can't afford it.
“How far are we away from school districts being free day care?” McQuillan asked.