2013-03-28 / Front Page

Old Bridge mulls full-day kindergarten

Staff Writer

OLD BRIDGE — Discussions on the prospective implementation of full-day kindergarten classes in the district’s 12 elementary schools are in full swing.

“We are proposing a two-class pilot to begin next September,” Interim Superintendent of Schools Tim Brennan said. “It would take a lot of work, but we think we have a shot of making it fall into place for [2014-15] throughout the district.”

After a concerned parent raised the issue at a Board of Education (BOE) meeting on March 19, Brennan said a two-class pilot of full-day kindergarten classes would be proposed at the March 21 public hearing on the district school budget. However, the meeting was cancelled because of a board member’s family emergency.

“We’re looking at our goals for the pilot. We want to make use of additional curriculum for kindergarten and we want to find a way to see if we can level the playing field [for kindergarten students], because some of our kids have gone to nursery schools or preschools where they’ve learned letters, numbers, and maybe even how to read,” Brennan said. These students would be in the same kindergarten classes as students who did not attend preschool, and would create a learning gap that would be difficult for teachers to close, Brennan said.

“We’re beginning to fall towards the back of the pack,” the superintendent said. “I think we might be now in the 30 percent [minority] of schools that don’t have all-day [kindergarten]. We want to attract parents who value education and buy homes as they become available in the township. When common core standards come out, our kids are going to be at a disadvantage.”

The Common Core State Standards were adopted in New Jersey in July 2010, and are slated for statewide implementation next year. According to corestandards.org, the standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that young people need to for success in college and careers. Many teachers in the district were concerned that half-day kindergarten classes would shortchange students, whereas full-day kindergarten would allow teachers to address common core standards in greater depth.

Brennan examined other reasons to implement full-day kindergarten.

“We want to take a look at the two different schools of thought as to why you would even have all day kindergarten. One is to shelter the students socially so that they have confidence in their learning, and the other would be simply to cover more material so that the first-grade teacher can expect a greater level of confidence [from students],” he said.

Brennan added that there would be a public hearing on the matter at a future board meeting. He also said he plans to organize a committee to investigate further options for implementation, and that he would attend faculty and PTA meetings in order to put together a plan for their consideration.

“Right now we look like we’re picking [certain] schools [for full-day kindergarten implementation], and not [certain] children. We’re just beginning our discussion, and as you can see, we’re really just getting out of the box,” he said.

Contact Thomas Castles at tcastles@gmnews.com.

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