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Letter: Keep Westport's Current Kindergarten Schedule

WESTPORT, Conn. – The Westport Daily Voice accepts signed letters to the editor. Send letters to westport@dailyvoice.com .

To the Editor,

Westport does not need to adopt a full-day kindergarten program simply because other districts have done so.  We have a unique program, and it works for our kids.

Our current schedule of 29 hours and 45 minutes a week is a full-day kindergarten. Many districts have “full-day” kindergarten of 25 to 30 hours a week.  The National Association of School Psychologists considers 25 hours a week a full-day kindergarten.

When we review research showing that full-day programs benefit some students, we must remember that we have enough hours a week to realize these benefits. Furthermore, the research shows that any academic benefits gained from a full-day program are entirely lost by second grade.

We have a unique schedule that gives our youngest children time for their individual needs – whether they need enrichment activities, free play or rest time.  Extensive research shows the value of downtime for young children and the dangers of overworking them.  These are very young children – they still need help opening their juice boxes!

We have no evidence that our kindergarten students are behind those in other districts. The school administration has stated this at recent Board of Education meetings. It is wrong to change our program without evidence that it is failing – especially when a significant portion of the parent population wants to keep what we have.

We should keep the current schedule and assess how next year's kindergarten class does with any curriculum changes that may be needed to address the Common Core standards. At that time, we can better determine what, if anything, needs to be changed.

We can alleviate the “hurriedness” some people are concerned about on extended days by making simple schedule adjustments. We can integrate computers and library and use those extra 70 minutes for additional instructional time on our two extended days.

Furthermore, it is not fair to our students or teachers to implement full-day kindergarten without any additional staff. Our kindergarten classrooms have a maximum size of 22 kids and one teacher, with limited paraprofessional support. This is not enough to cover two more full days.

We need to focus on the whole child and not just their academic performance. Free unstructured play – which differs greatly from supervised play in school -- must be a part of a successful kindergarten day

Kindergarten is the transition to full-day school. The change to a large building, large classes, fewer staff, greater independence and much more academic work is substantial. Our 4- to 6-year-olds do not need 40-hour work weeks, which is essentially what they will have with travel time and a full-day schedule.

Let’s let Westport be a leader in education. When other districts report cases of burn out and stress in their kindergarten and first grade, they can turn to Westport and look at our existing formula for success.

Sincerely,

Amy Saperstein

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