WESTPORT, Conn. – Starting this fall, Westport kindergartners will spend more time in school. The Board of Education on Monday night approved implementing a five-day full-day kindergarten program in a 6-1 vote, despite pleas from dozens of parents to stick with the current model.
Kindergartners now attend school for three full days and two half-days each week. By switching to a five full-day model, students will be in school for four additional hours each week — something many parents took issue with because it will mean less free time for their children at home.
“This is a special year for children, who often have to grow up faster than they should in this world,” said parent Carrie Howard. “Let’s give them the gift of time while we still can. Time they need to grow, have special family time, enjoy outside interests, to rest or nap, or spend with their mom reading a book. I truly feel we owe it to our little ones to remember that they are just little ones.”
Next fall, the district will adopt the Common Core State Standards curriculum, academic standards that define what students in each grade level should know. As a result, more academic instruction time will be needed, district administrators said.
If the district were to adopt the Common Core Standards under the current kindergarten schedule, time allotted for specials — such as gym, art and music — would be cut to satisfy the need for more academic instruction.
“Our kindergarten program is still where we are concerned that we do not have the adequate amount of time to be able to reach the instructional minutes that we want,” said Cynthia Gilchrest, director of elementary education. “We need to gain that time, and we do not want to give up our wonderful specials. We want to keep our program developmentally appropriate.”
Board of Education member Mark Mathias — the dissenting voter — said he does not think the district needs to change to five full-day kindergarten to meet the Common Core Standards. Instead, he said the additional instruction time required could be met with some “tweaking” to the current schedule.
“I’m torn on this,” Mathias said. “My assessment is that we are already meeting the Common Core — maybe not 100 percent, but we’re practically there.”
In addition to satisfying the requirements of the Common Core, switching to a five full-day model will save the district money, Superintendent Elliott Landon said. Specifically, the district will save $50,000 a year because mid-day buses will no longer be required two days a week.
Although a large group of parents spoke against five full-day kindergarten, there was applause after the board approved the change.
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