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March 05. 2014 6:00PM

Hopkinton will vote on full-day kindergarten

HOPKINTON — If voters give the plan their blessing, the school district hopes to make full-day kindergarten the norm beginning next year.

The annual school district meeting will take place at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Hopkinton High School. One warrant article proposes changing all of its kindergarten classes from half-day to full-day.

According to Superintendent Steve Chamberlin, the district has been conducting a pilot full-day kindergarten for the past two years. Currently there are three kindergarten classes including one full-day class, and two half-day classes. While most kindergarteners attended one of the half-day classes, students who were identified as needing a bit of extra help in order to get ready for first grade were offered an opportunity to attend school for the full day.

“We assessed the pre-school kids and looked for any gaps in learning,” said Chamberlin. “We felt that offering full-day kindergarten was a way to close those gaps.”

The extra space in the full-day class was opened up to students who didn’t exhibit any obvious learning gaps and whose parents agreed to pay a fee to keep their kids in school all day.

After studying the effects of the full-day kindergarten program on the students, Chamberlin said administrators and the school board agreed that going full-day for all incoming youngsters was a smart move.

“We think all 5- and 6-year-olds in Hopkinton can benefit from this regardless of their learning ability,” he said.

Studies have consistently shown that students who have a strong beginning to their education perform better in school later on, said Chamberlin. The extra time at the beginning of their 13 years in school builds a foundation upon which everything else they learn is dependent, and with that foundation firmly in place, students are at lower risk for needing more costly educational assistance programs later on, the superintendent said.

But to save money, taxpayers are going to have to spend money. The total tab for adding the full-day kindergarten in the 2014-15 school year will be $140,000, which includes the loss in revenue from the parents who are currently paying for full-day kindergarten. But the district will also save a bit of money by losing the mid-day bus run for kindergarteners.

To make the full-day kindergarten plan happen, Chamberlin said the district is taking advantage of an unusually small second-grade class expected next year. One of the teachers who currently teaches second grade will welcome kindergarteners in the fall instead, said Chamberlin.

There seems to be adequate classroom space going forward, he said, and though space could be a problem in the future if the town’s population increased or shifted dramatically, right now seems a perfect time to go full-day, Chamberlin said.

nfoster@newstote.com


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