Kindergarten will switch to full-day

Staff Writer

Full-day kindergarten is coming to the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District. In a letter to parents, Superintendent of Schools John J. Marciante Jr. said, “I am very happy to announce that it is the consensus of the Board of Education to implement full-day kindergarten in September 2014. The 2014-15 budget I will develop over the next several months will reflect the board’s consensus.”

In his letter, Marciante said, “We have not yet heard from the state Department of Education regarding our request for funding to build additional classroom space, but given the increased demands of the Common Core State Standards, it is not in the best interest of our students to delay full-day kindergarten implementation any longer. With minimal impact to current programming, we will be able to create space in the Clark Mills, Taylor Mills and Milford Brook schools to house the additional kindergarten students.”

Marciante previously said the implementation of New Jersey’s Common Core State Standards led district administrators and board members to conclude it is time to move from a half-day kindergarten program to a full-day kindergarten class.

“With the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, it became apparent to all of us that full-day kindergarten is a necessity. We have to move in that direction. Other K-8 districts in the Freehold Regional High School District are doing the same,” he said.

In June 2010, the New Jersey State Board of Education and the state Department of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards.

The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and experts to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare children for college and the workforce, according to a description of the standards posted on the department’s website. School administrators in several districts have said the Common Core State Standards were developed with full-day kindergarten in mind.

Currently, all Manalapan-Englishtown kindergarten pupils attend the John I. Dawes Early Learning Center, Gordons Corner Road, Manalapan. There are about 300 kindergarten pupils attending half-day sessions this year, Marciante said.

Some kindergarten pupils remain in school longer under an optional program that allows parents to pay extra for an extended instructional day.

Under the new program, all kindergarten pupils from Manalapan and Englishtown will be provided with a full-day program.

Marciante said he anticipates the number of kindergarten pupils will rise from 300 to about 525 when the district offers a fullday program. He said 525 pupils is the average size of the entire first grade and includes children who enroll in the district after attending kindergarten in another educational facility.

Commenting on the costs associated with full-day kindergarten, Marciante informed parents that “the majority of the funding for this implementation will be obtained through the use of the budget cap bank. Over the past several years, the district has worked to increase efficiency to ensure that the annual tax increase remained under 2 percent, whether or not we were eligible for any exemptions.

“Health benefits cost is an area that carries an exemption to the 2 percent cap. For the past two years, increases in health benefits costs exceeded the benchmark established by the state, and while the district budget could have gone above 2 percent, we worked to meet our budgetary requirements within the 2 percent tax increase. By statute, the amount not raised in taxes was recorded and placed in the cap bank for a three-year period. The cap bank is basically a record of the amount that can be added to the tax levy within that period.

“To fund the full-time kindergarten program, the 2014-15 budget will go to cap and use the cap bank. The tax levy will be approximately 4 percent and will meet all statutory requirements. Over the next several months, additional information regarding the implementation of full-time kindergarten will be released as it becomes available,” the superintendent said.

According to Marciante, one plan under consideration by administrators calls for the construction of eight new classrooms at the Wemrock Brook School, Millhurst Road, Manalapan. The eight new classrooms would house pupils in grades one through five. Larger classrooms that currently house pupils in grades one through five at Wemrock Brook were built to house kindergarten pupils if necessary and would do so under the full-day kindergarten plan, he said.

The district is seeking state assistance for the construction project, but has no guarantee of receiving any funding, according to the superintendent.