Full-Day Kindergarten Approved in Butler
Board voted to lengthen school day for kindergarten students.
The Butler Board of Education voted to move to a full-day kindergarten program after hearing a presentation about the anticipated benefits of the switch from Aaron Decker School Principal Virgina Scala.
While the district has only had a partial-day kindergarten program in the past, with four sections being taught by two teachers, Superintendent Mario Cardinale said the transition is one the district has hoped to make for some time.
"We've been trying to work things into the budget," he said. "We're hoping to see them reach fruition."
Scala said the main reason the district considered moving to a full-day program now is so that the teachers can spend more instructional time with the children, which can help as the school works to conform to the state's curriculum standards.
Currently, the students spend two hours and 45 minutes per day of instructional time split up amongst curriculum areas during the half-day kindergarten program. Under the full-day program, the students would have 120 minutes of language arts instruction (which would include social studies and science) and 90 minutes of math instruction. Mixed in throughout the day, students would also have specialty instruction in other subjects.
"Every part of the day, from the minute they arrive until the minute they go home, would be a learning experience," Scala said.
The kindergarten students will eat lunch in the cafeteria, for the first time, but separately from other students in the school.
"They can eat at their own pace then have a recess period, kindergarten only," Scala said.
Several surrounding school districts already have a full-day kindergarten program, a point Cardinale and some board members said may give other districts a competitive edge. Bloomingdale, Riverdale, Lincoln Park and Boonton districts all offer full-day kindergarten and Scala said she has seen children attend kindergarten outside of Butler then return for first grade and not be as prepared as their classmates.
"We want to keep them in district and offer a good program," Scala said.
The cost of hiring two full-time teachers is $110,000, Scala said, plus the cost of benefits ($57,415) and two aides' salaries ($26,000). However, the district would save $18,000 by eliminating a mid-day bus route, bringing the total cost to about $174,598.
As for facilities, Scala said there is already space available for two additional classrooms in a wing that is somewhat removed from other parts of the school and would have all kindergarten classes near each other.
"It was really important to have the other two kindergarten classes located within close proximity," she said.
Some height adjustments will need to be made to toilets in the bathroom closest to the new classrooms that would only be used by the kindergartners.
Board Member Cynthia Sokoloff said one of the board's committees had been planning to discuss full-day kindergarten but by the time it came up, Scala had already prepared a presentation with analysis.
"We were thrilled to hear that you folks were already two steps ahead of us," she said.