parents and community members are overwhelmingly in support of a plan to bring full-day kindergarten to the district. What they aren’t so happy about is a proposed $150 per month fee, according to survey findings presented by members of a committee tasked with exploring the logistics of making the program a reality.
In May, the district asked residents to complete a survey aimed at gauging community interest in all-day kindergarten. According to the committee, 2,259 people responded to the survey, with 85 percent saying it would be a good idea for Valley View to offer the program.
However, 66 percent said a $150 fee would be too pricey. That didn’t seem to come as a surprise to committee members, who shared research with the board of education Monday showing that most Illinois unit school districts that offer full-day kindergarten charge only a one-time registration fee, with just 12 percent imposing a monthly fee.
In the end, the committee’s recommendation to the board was twofold: That the district offer full-day kindergarten as an option for all students, and that it be more affordable or, if possible, available at no additional cost to parents.
Superintendent James Mitchem, presiding over his first board meeting since taking the reigns from retiring Superintendent Phillip Schoffstall, cited research showing that children who attend full-day kindergarten have an academic advantage over those who do not. The program could help close the achievement gap during the critical first few years of school, saving the district money on interventions for struggling students as they get older, Mitchem said.
“Obviously, the costs associated with this would be great,” Mitchem said. But the program would be part of Mitchem’s efforts to shift district resources toward grades K-3, helping students with achievement delays early on in their academic careers rather than later.
Committee members noted that the survey is just the first step in exploring all-day kindergarten. Next, the group will begin looking into logistics including finding a site equipped to handle a full-day program, staffing and funding.
Possibilities under consideration include housing the program at existing elementary campuses, creating an early childhood/kindergarten center or renting a local storefront. Funding options range from reallocating existing resources, pursuing grants or title funding and cutting costs by offering summer school online rather than in a classroom, according the committee.
“Clearly, we have a long way to go,” Mitchem said. “It’s really just an exploratory project at this point.”
Board members seemed to agree full-day kindergarten should be part of Valley View’s future.
“It’s definitely needed,” board member Liz Campbell said. Jim Curran, noting that he sent all three of his own children to all-day kindergarten, agreed.
“I think it’s worth it,” he said.
Board vice president Rick Gougis noted that, aside from academic benefits, full-day kindergarten could help single and working parents who struggle to find child care for students enrolled in a half-day program.
“What we do now is difficult,” he said. “I think that’s the driver for some of the enrollment numbers at [private kindergartens].”
The next step for the all-day kindergarten committee is to bring Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services Gary Grizaffi on board to explore the costs associated with the program. The committee is also looking to recruit parents, community members and private school representatives to help continue its work.
If the district does add a full-day option, that doesn’t mean its current kindergarten program will disappear. In Illinois, school districts that offer full-day kindergarten must continue to offer a half-day program as an alternative for parents who do not wish to send their kindergartners to school full time.
Mitchem said while the committee’s goal is to launch full-day kindergarten at the end of next school year, it could take longer to get all the pieces in place for such a large undertaking.
“The sooner we get this in place, the better,” he said, noting the committee hopes to be able to present a plan for implementation to the board within the next 90 days.
Here’s how residents responded to the full-day kindergarten survey:
1. Valley View School District is considering offering an all-day kindergarten program. Is this a good idea?
Yes: 85 percent; No: 15 percent
2. If interested, would you be willing to pay approximately $150 per month for your child to attend?
Yes: 34 percent; No: 66 percent
3. If you answered "No" to the previous question, is it due to:
Cost: 73 percent; Only want half-day option: 14 percent; Other: 13 percent
4. If the all-day kindergarten program is not offered at each school site, would you be willing to have your child transported to another school site at no cost to you?
Yes: 66 percent; No: 35 percent
5. Do you have a child who will enter kindergarten in:
- 2011-12: 16 percent
- 2012-13: 19 percent
- 2013-14: 15 percent
- 2014-15: 7 percent
- None: 46 percent