Merrimack officials voice support for all-day kindergartenBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
January 18. 2018 10:10PM
MERRIMACK — Several school board members say they support a proposal to implement an all-day kindergarten program this fall.
“I believe that Merrimack is ready for full-day kindergarten,” said school board member Cinda Guagliumi.
Guagliumi said she is excited about the possibility of making this project a reality.
The board is expected to vote next month on whether to place the matter on the town ballot as a separate warrant article seeking approval from voters for the program.
“This is a very important decision for this community to make,” said Shannon Barnes, school board chairman.
If Merrimack does not take advantage of a more rigorous, fulfilling and enriching kindergarten program, local children could be missing out, said Barnes.
Providing voters with the chance to weigh in on the proposal is the right decision, she said.
During a school board meeting this week, Superintendent Marge Chiafery said she believes that all-day kindergarten program would be beneficial. Although some parents may still only be interested in a half-day program, she said the district is committed to addressing the needs of every student and accommodating their desires while also providing them with opportunities.
Currently kindergarten teachers at the three elementary schools in Merrimack provide 440 hours of instructional time per year. Under the full-day program, that number would jump to 920 hours of instruction.
In addition, courses such as art, music, physical education and computer introduction would be added to the curriculum, as well as a focus on gross and fine motor skills, science, social studies and play-based activities, said members of the kindergarten task force.
“The full day allows a balance of both direct instruction and student-led activities. It is a time for social interaction,” said Kimberly Yarlott, principal at Reeds Ferry Elementary School and chairman of the task force.
“It is our obligation as a community to offer these opportunities,” said Ingrid French, a Merrimack mother with three children.
Currently, the local kindergarten teachers are using instructional programs designed for full-day classes, but are retrofitting the instructional time into a 2.5 hour period, according to the task force. Half-day kindergarten has been offered by the local school district since 2005.
The potential cost of implementing the program was not discussed during Tuesday’s meeting. The board has scheduled a work session on Feb. 6 to study the issue further and consider all of the proposed warrant articles for the April ballot.