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.