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Several N.H school districts to decide on full-day kindergarten

  • Sara Duval leads her kindergarten students at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton during a rehearsal for a school assembly on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014. Kindergarten at Harold Martin School is full time. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Sara Duval leads her kindergarten students at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton during a rehearsal for a school assembly on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014. Kindergarten at Harold Martin School is full time.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Madison Dawson, 6, holds up a house she drew on cue with her kindergarten teacher Sarah Duval's reading of Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham" on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014 at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton. Dawson is in the school's full-time kindergarten program. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Madison Dawson, 6, holds up a house she drew on cue with her kindergarten teacher Sarah Duval's reading of Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham" on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014 at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton. Dawson is in the school's full-time kindergarten program.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Annie Morrall, 6, studies a book on how to draw a tiger while at her favorite learning center station during her full-time kindergarten class at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Annie Morrall, 6, studies a book on how to draw a tiger while at her favorite learning center station during her full-time kindergarten class at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Bella Correa, 6, pauses between playing educational games on the computer at one of the afternoon learning centers during her full-time kindergarten class at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Bella Correa, 6, pauses between playing educational games on the computer at one of the afternoon learning centers during her full-time kindergarten class at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Summit Olkonen puts his apron away after finishing a painting during his afternoon learning centers in the full-time kindergarten class at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Summit Olkonen puts his apron away after finishing a painting during his afternoon learning centers in the full-time kindergarten class at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Sara Duval leads her kindergarten students at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton during a rehearsal for a school assembly on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014. Kindergarten at Harold Martin School is full time. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Madison Dawson, 6, holds up a house she drew on cue with her kindergarten teacher Sarah Duval's reading of Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham" on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014 at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton. Dawson is in the school's full-time kindergarten program. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Annie Morrall, 6, studies a book on how to draw a tiger while at her favorite learning center station during her full-time kindergarten class at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Bella Correa, 6, pauses between playing educational games on the computer at one of the afternoon learning centers during her full-time kindergarten class at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Summit Olkonen puts his apron away after finishing a painting during his afternoon learning centers in the full-time kindergarten class at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Perched in a white rocking chair, Hopkinton kindergarten teacher Sara Duval holds open the Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham.

Her eyes widen. “Would you like them in a . . . ” she asks with a pause. “House!” shout 15 little voices in unison. Seated on a tan shag rug in the middle of the classroom, the kindergartners shoot their hands into the air, holding up signs of houses they had drawn.

It’s 1 p.m. Monday and the students are practicing for a Read Across America school assembly they’ll attend the next day. While they have been at Harold Martin School since 8 a.m., enrolled in a full-day kindergarten pilot program, on the other side of the wall, the half-day kindergarten teacher has already dismissed her first class of the day and is halfway through teaching the second.

The split in Hopkinton mirrors the divide across the state, where more districts are opting for full-day kindergarten. That push for longer days has often caused friction with voters searching for ways to cut school budgets. This year, Hopkinton is one of several districts, including Merrimack Valley and Northwood, where voters will consider plans to expand kindergarten to a full day for all students.

The districts are part of a continuing shift in New Hampshire. By the end of last school year, 41 percent of children in the state attended full-day kindergarten. That is up six percentage points from the 2009-10 school year, when 35 percent completed a whole-day program, according to the New Hampshire Department of Education.

In Hopkinton, the school board will present its full-day kindergarten proposal as part of its annual budget at the school district meeting Saturday. If voters approve it, full-day kindergarten will begin this fall for all the town’s eligible children.

Hopkinton’s pilot program

For the past two years, Duval has been teaching the school’s full-day pilot program, run alongside the district’s regular half-day kindergarten. Half of the pilot’s students have been identified as needing extra assistance through an academic screening process and the others elected to join and pay tuition.

Regardless of their status, Duval said, all the students passing through the pilot have benefited.

“The growth I have seen in the past two years of having a full day is like no other year that I have had,” said Duval, who taught full-day kindergarten at a private school before working at Harold Martin.

Duval, who has also taught half-day kindergarten classes at Harold Martin, said the best part of a full day, from 8 a.m. to 2:35 p.m, is the time. “It’s nice to not always be rushing them,” she said. A half day runs about three hours, she said, and it is broken up by snack and recess. In a full day, students can build onto writing projects and have more time to practice math and literacy skills.

The full day makes a difference socially and emotionally, she said. The full-day kindergartners eat lunch at school and can attend school-wide events, like the assembly, no matter the time. “They become part of the school faster,” she said.

A concern among parents, Duval said, has been kindergartners’ ability to adapt to the longer day. While sometimes a problem in September, she said, students were fine after the first few weeks.

Full-day kindergarten in Hopkinton will cost residents about $140,000, said Superintendent Steven Chamberlin. Although the school would cut the midday bus service, it would lose tuition from the pilot students and would need to hire an additional teaching assistant. Enrollment in next year’s second grade class is low enough, Principal Bill Carozza said, that the school can cut a second-grade teacher position and shift that position to a full-time kindergarten teacher.

MV parents make pitch

Last summer, Loudon resident Alicha Kingsbury read that her school board might consider the feasibility of full-day kindergarten. A recent transplant from Gilmanton, where schools already offer a full day, she went to Facebook and posted a message asking friends whether they wanted to go with her to a school board meeting on the topic. “Next thing I know, 12 to 15 people said, ‘Yeah, I want to go.’ ” At the meeting, they caught the attention of the superintendent, she said, and he set up a meeting with the growing group.

Full-day kindergarten “was in the long-term goals for the school board,” she said. “They just needed someone to blow the dust off it. Seeing they had parents’ attention, that is what did it.”

Now a full-day kindergarten proposal is up for a vote at Merrimack Valley’s school district meeting Thursday.

The expansion will cost $194,310 and raise taxes about a half a percent, said Chris Barry, assistant superintendent of the Merrimack Valley School District, which includes Penacook, Boscawen, Loudon, Webster and Salisbury.

To implement the full-day kindergarten program, the district already has the classroom space but would need to hire 5½ more teachers if enrollment numbers stay the same, Barry said. The district would also cut the midday bus route.

The half-day program doesn’t meet the needs of students, Barry said, as expectations from the Common Core education standards and the school district have increased.

The full-day program would give kids more time for reading and math and for teachers to get to know students, she said. “We think that the full-day program will contribute to narrowing the achievement gap.”

If the warrant item passes, full-day kindergarten would begin in the fall.

That means Kingsbury’s daughter could be in the pioneering class. She hopes extended kindergarten will lessen the rush felt in a half day and help students feel a part of the school.

Last year her son was a kindergartner and was upset when he couldn’t attend certain activities like holiday parades or guest speakers because he was in the morning shift.

“One class is always missing something,” she said. “They want to feel like they are a part of the school. It helps them adjust and make friends.”

Some residents are concerned about the cost. Salisbury resident Ken Ross-Raymond said he is worried full-day kindergarten will become a day care center for many parents with a bill footed by taxpayers. “The parent is free to go out and work now, and I just don’t think it’s fair to the taxpayer,” he said. He said it’s a concern he has heard from others in the community as well.

Kingsbury disagrees. “You get what you pay for,” she said. “I feel like it’s a good investment to invest in our children.”

Decision day in Northwood

A couple towns away from Loudon, in SAU 44, Northwood is also considering expanding the half-day kindergarten to a full day. Voters will consider the proposal at the school district meeting next Tuesday.

Costing roughly $45,000, the expansion would increase taxes 9 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, said Superintendent Robert Gadomski. Like other districts, Northwood would eliminate the midday bus service. The cost comes mainly from hiring an additional teacher.

“In this day of tight budgets and fiscal responsibilities, they weigh benefits and see if the community can support it,” he said. “This was the year it felt time to move forward.”

He said the full day helps level the playing field for all students. It advances kids with a solid background in math or reading and fills in the gaps for those who need it, he said.

Although Gadomski said he has heard overwhelming support from parents, one concern is the length of the day. It’s true, he said, but many kids already have a full day, being picked up by a baby-sitter after half-day kindergarten, then getting picked up by a parent and going home.

“This will just stabilize it and allow kids to be in a school setting.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)

Legacy Comments6

I will be voting yes on Thursday. A half of a percent in MVSD divided among the five towns - the math has been done and we're looking at 1 to 2 cents per thousand. This is far from excessive. Especially when you consider the returns. It has been argued, and backed by research, that quality early learning programs can result in reduced costs later on in special education, remedial classes, and even incarceration. Early intervention works. All children benefit. When those children grow up, society will benefit. One to two cents per thousand.... an increase of, literally, a couple of dollars. Let's all vote yes.

Mr. Gadomski say's "many kids already have a full day, being picked up by a BABY-SITTER after half day kindergarten". So the schools actually do become day care centers at taxpayer expense. For those that suggest it's worth the money, they should have no problem paying for the additional half day. After all, "it's worth the money".

Kindergarten is good, but all day kindergarten is unnecessary. This is more about taxpayer paid baby sitting for working parents. In New York City they are not pushing for taxpayer funded pre-school. What is next? Pre-pre-school? Why don't we just have parents give birth and then turn the children over to the government and they can make good little citizens out of them? All of the excuses about this being an investment and building better citizens and students, etc. are red herring, straw man, innuendos which have no proof in reality. But the real reason is that the average 5 year old can't hold a full day's worth of attention at a kindergarten. I can't see paying for nap time.

Every child deserves a public education beginning with Kindergarten. at the least. This petty quibbling is unfortunate. OUR kids deserve adult advocates who will be voting YES.

To completely ignore the issue of under performing students is a big concern most important. But outside of that those parents who will then work also becoming an enhancement to the community in addition to then be able no longer need any assistant from local or state programs. Yes it will cost more money, but those under performing kids will end up costing you more in the long run.

I urge all district voters to attend the school board meeting Thursday and vote NO on extended kindergarten. The cost will rise every year as all the teachers automatically receive a step pay raise. District voters cannot afford this additional burden. We do not need to subsidize the day care of pre-school age kids. The parents should agree to pay for this if they want to enroll their child in full day kindergarten. Taxes are already excessive. Stop this. Attend. Vote NO.

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