Jackson board approves full-day kindergarten

Staff Writer

JACKSON — The Jackson School District Board of Education will move forward with plans to implement full-day kindergarten in September.

The change from a half-day kindergarten program to a full-day program for 5-yearolds beginning in September met with a vote of approval from the board on Jan. 20.

Following a multi-year examination of the benefits and risks of implementing a full-day kindergarten, Superintendent of Schools Stephen Genco said the full-day program is the best option for pupils in the district.

“The feasibility committee that consisted of board members, parents and kindergarten teachers, among others, worked so hard on this and they deserve to be publicly thanked for all the work they did,” Genco said.

District administrators conducted an online survey to give parents and other residents a chance to state their opinion about the possible transition to a full-day kindergarten.

Results of the survey were presented to the board and the public on Jan. 20. There were 1,812 responses collected on a variety of questions, including a child’s grade level and what year a child would be entering kindergarten, and several questions regarding the value of full-day kindergarten relative to a child’s development.

District spokeswoman Allison Erwin said the survey questions helped administrators gather diverse input about how parents felt about full-day kindergarten. Doing so allowed board members to consider everyone’s opinion, she said.

“We tried to keep the survey brief and really get their feedback as to how they are with the process,” Erwin said.

Another issue that was examined is the use of trailers as classrooms. Currently, the district is using 37 trailers as classrooms in an effort to keep class sizes at recommended levels. Reducing the number of trailers in use will not be possible with fullday kindergarten, according to Genco.

For full-day kindergarten to be possible, there will be changes in the district’s staffing needs, according to Erwin.

“In order for the full-day program to be done successfully, there is a need for eight teaching positions, which can be accomplished through repurposing our staff and taking some certified teachers from our extended enrichment kindergarten program,” she said.

With the possibility of residential growth occurring in the future and the first phase of the Jackson 21 residential-commercial development beginning this year, Genco said there is always a chance of more children coming into the district.

“With various subdivisions … being proposed depending upon the economy … I believe we can move forward with full-day kindergarten with the window we have,” the superintendent said.

Board members noted that over the years, many approved residential developments have not been constructed.

If enrollment does increase at some point in the future, Genco said, the board would consider redistricting as an option to accommodate additional students.

“Enrollment has decreased in our district; however, if it goes up then moving boundary lines may be necessary in the future,” he said.

Board members said the plan is to fund full-day kindergarten within the district’s budget and not to ask for additional funding.

Board member Sharon Dey, who served on the committee that examined the feasibility of full-day kindergarten, said when she moved to Jackson she was disappointed that full-day kindergarten was not offered in the school district.

Dey said she is pleased that children who attend Jackson’s public schools will now have that opportunity.

“As a board member for seven years, I am glad to see full-day kindergarten begin in this district, and I know our teachers are working hard to make our students productive members of society,” Dey said.

Board member Michael Hanlon said he appreciates the fact that members of the public came forward to express their views about the kindergarten program.

“If people in the community have a concern about something that is happening in the schools, they should bring it to our attention. This board does its research and we come up with the most logical solutions. Full-day kindergarten is imperative for our kids,” Hanlon said.

Dey, Hanlon, board member Theresa Schiazza and board President Barbara Fiero voted to move forward with full-day kindergarten.

Board members Marvin Krakower, Thomas Colucci and Adam Silvan were not present at the meeting.