Mahwah schools should add a full day Kindergarten program, according to a recommendation made by the district’s administration to the Board of Education Wednesday night.
“It is our recommendation to move forward on full-day kindergarten,” District Superintendent Lauren Schoen told the board at a meeting this week.
District officials made a presentation Wednesday on the preliminary curriculum, staffing, and cost implications switching from the current half-day program to a full day one might have on the district.
Overall, the switch would require 5.5 new staff members and seven new benefits packages, district officials said Wednesday. Betsy Ross and George Washington would each go from three half-day classes taught by one full-time and one part-time teacher to three full-days taught by three full time teachers. Lenape Meadows would shift from five sections taught by two full time and one part time teacher to five full-day sessions taught by five full-time teachers.
The shift would also require additional part-time hours added to specials teachers so the full-day Kindergarten students could go to full art, music, library, and phys ed classes. And, additional para professionals may need to be hired for special education classes, and to monitor lunch and recess, officials said.
In terms of space in the buildings, administrators said the buildings could handle the increase in the program without making any structural additions, mostly because classrooms used for an “after school” program that currently allows for Kindergarten students to stay in school during the other half of the day would no longer be used for that. However, some facilities upgrades would be necessary, like upgrading some of the bathrooms attached to what will become Kindergarten classrooms, and possible upgrades to the playground at George Washington.
The district would need to write additional curriculum in certain subject areas, but officials said that the switch would help students delve more deeply into Kindergarten concepts in ways that they do not have the time to do now.
Overall, District Business Administrator Ed Deptula estimated the switch would cost the district $487,500 in staffing costs, $75-100,000 in start-up costs, like buying supplies and books, and an additional $25,000 for each bathroom upgrade, though he said not all of the bathrooms would need to be upgraded, and some that would need upgrades would not need them immediately.
The Board did not vote on the recommendation Wednesday, but did verbally OK administration to continue a more in-depth analysis of how the switch to a full day program could fit into the 2014-15 school budget.
After the presentation, many of the board members spoke highly of the anticipated change.
“I think this will be a huge positive for Mahwah,” Board President Tricia Shada said.
Board member Peter Wendrychowicz added the switch is “long overdue,” and “necessary” when considering the new Common Core standards children are now expected to learn in Kindergarten.
Several parents in the audience at the meeting thanked the board for the change.
"Our children will learn and grow better," Allison Colucci, the mother of an incoming Kindergartener, told the board.
"Not making the curriculum harder, but deeper...will be an amazing change for them not only in Kindergarten, but moving forward."