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Full Day Kindergarten in Avon, Yay or Nay?

This is one of many proposals on the superintendent's recommended $50.3 million gross budget for 2013-14.

Full day kindergarten is one of the recommended additions to the $50.3 million school budget that Avon Superintendent Gary Mala has proposed for 2013-14.

Parents wearing green tags that said "FDK" (full day kindergarten) filled the majority of seats at the meeting two weeks ago when Mala presented his budget recommendation to the Board of Education. A group of parents has formed to support the initiative, including Avon parent Tracy Beloin.

"I think it's important for Avon to stay competitive with local communities," Beloin said, naming Canton, Simsbury and Burlington as a few area towns with full day kindergarten.

Parents told Patch after the meeting that offering full day kindergarten may also encourage families to move to Avon and help real estate sales.

Mala said that if approved, full day kindergarten would be five days a week for the duration of the elementary school days – 8:50 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. Parents would also have the option of half-day kindergarten, he said.

He estimated that it would cost $330,000 to have full day kindergarten, including $300,000 to pay for five additional kindergarten teachers, $20,000 for classroom desks and chairs and $10,000 for books, materials and curriculum writing, according to his presentation to the school board. However, he stressed that there would be no expense for taxpayers if full day kindergarten were to be implemented.

Instead, non-tax revenue funding sources he identified that could cover the cost include state open choice reimbursement ($200,000), eliminating mid-day buses ($112,000) and energy conservation ($18,000).

At the school board's first budget workshop last week, officials discussed whether there would be savings in mid-day buses if there end up being a significant number of half-day kindergarten students. John Spang, school finance director, said that if that's the case, less full-time teachers may be needed. Mala also said as an example that the district could limit half day kindergarten classes to the morning for cost containment.

The Central Office projects that 92 kindergarten students will enroll at Pine Grove School next school year, as well as 98 at Roaring Brook School.

“We have been very proactive in talking to preschool programs about this," Mala said.

At present, there are three morning and two afternoon classes at each elementary school. At both schools, two full-time teachers are assigned to a morning and afternoon kindergarten class a piece and one teacher runs one half-day class.

Full day kindergarten would require two-and-a-half additional teachers for five sections of classes at each elementary school, according to Mala's current proposal.

That is subject to adjustment depending on how many parents would want their kids in full day kindergarten versus half-day. School officials will likely need to wait until after Board of Finance reviews the combined town and school budgets to gage preliminary commitments to full day kindergarten before the May referendum. 

“One of the things that’s going to be problematic is folks that leave the district to go to full-time kindergarten opportunities," Mala said, noting that many programs have deadlines to apply.

This year, 14 Avon kids are going to magnet schools that offer full day kindergarten options. Avon Public Schools are required to pay the tuition and transportation costs for those students.

Some parents enroll their children in Avon Public Schools for kindergarten but pay for them to go to day care or enrichment programs for the rest of the day for extra instruction.

Avon schools typically see enrollment spikes in first grade when some students who go elsewhere for kindergarten return to the district.

Parents who spoke to Patch in favor of full day kindergarten after the school board meeting two weeks ago also said that the extended class time could help ease the transition to a full day of first grade and more complex lessons.

"The educational standards have increased so significantly in such a short period of time," said Beloin, who added that full day kindergarten would give the children more exposure to socializing.

For an overview of Mala's proposed 2013-14 school budget, click on the link provided.

The school board is in the process of reviewing the proposal and the earliest board members may vote on Mala's proposed budget is at the Dec. 18 meeting.

Do you think full day kindergarten is the way to go for Avon Public Schools? Why or why not? What are the pros and cons? What other parts of the school budget are important to you? Tell us in the comments!

Editor's Note: The original version of this article misspelled Tracy Beloin's name. The article has been updated to reflect the correction.

This article was last updated at 9:21 a.m. on Tuesday.

Anthony December 09, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Jessie, if a user flags for the wrong reason they should be banned. My email is bmw1655@aol.com. Anthony
Anthony December 09, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Yes, Jessie, Dec 5 and 6 comments from Anthony and the person who I referred to who submitted a very thorough comment are gone! Can you find out if there was any funny business? Anrhony email bmw1655@aol.com
Jessie Sawyer December 10, 2012 at 03:54 AM
Anthony, Thanks for sending that information. I've passed it along to our site technicians, so I'll let you know if I hear anything. Happy holidays and thanks for reading Avon Patch! -Jessie
Adam March 05, 2013 at 06:24 PM
http://www.aei.org/article/education/the-shaky-science-behind-obamas-universal-pre-k/#mbl
Polly Conner March 06, 2013 at 08:15 PM
I think its sad that everyone wants to ship off their young kids -and the old people (but that's another story)- so that everyone can be more productive. What about fun, family time, relaxation, enjoying life. Kids are little for just a blink of an eye and then they are gone- enjoy them - and they should be able to be kids, play, rest, daydream, learn with Mom and Dad. It is said that the US was once the best and now we are slipping backwards because we aren't competitive - this needs to start in kindergarten? preschool? Back in the day when we truly were the best, Moms were able to stay home, most kids didn't go to preschool and none went to full day kindergarten. Why was the US the best then? Maybe, just maybe a mom's love is a lot more valuable than we give it credit. Obviously a Mom will care a lot more for her own child than a teacher with a full class of 25 random kids. It's like having a private tutor - how could that be bad? And maybe she can impart some morals into that well adjusted and perfectly loved child a little better than the overworked teacher that you don't know, and that might just be good for society too. Well just my 2 cents. Came upon this while researching moving to Avon... After reading so many hostile posts, I'm a little afraid. Not quite the idyllic family town I had imagined.

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