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D-58 mulls expanding to full-day kindergarten

DOWNERS GROVE – School District 58 is exploring the idea of full-day kindergarten, though possible implementation is at least two school years away, according to district administrators.

Several district kindergarten teachers updated the school board this month on the increasing academic demands placed on kindergartners, and the inadequate amount of time the current half-day program affords for instruction.

"The level of leaning expected at the 5-year-old level has really increased in the last 20 years," said Dr. Matt Rich, District 58 assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. "Now with the curricular expectations, it's such a different learning experience."

Trying to fit today's kindergarten curriculum into a half day is like "trying to stuff 20 pounds into a five pound bag," he said. "That being said, our Kindergarten teachers really do a remarkable job giving kids experiences in that half day program."

Currently, the district offers families both morning or afternoon half-day kindergarten programs. If the district expanded to offer a full-day class, Rich said law would require them to continue offering the half-day option as well.

Teachers at the May 12 meeting said the rushed schedule leaves no time for students to contemplate what they learned that day, make connections and just comprehend how to learn in general.

Teachers cover reading, math, science, handwriting, art, story time, library time, technology and social studies all in the half-day program.

"With all those expectations, we have lost the time for the fundamentals of learning," Fairmount Elementary School teacher Barb Potocki said.

The district began researching the full-day option, which is currently offered by several surrounding districts, last spring at the request of teachers. Rich said staff and administration will likely update the board again next fall.

"It's something parents consistently talk about, and this is the first time we have really done some research and presented that this is a consideration for us as we move forward," he said. "We did some national-level research to see what programs (other districts are) doing and why they're doing them. We did local surveys and talked to districts around us.

"This is not something we're the first mover on in any way. In this, we are looking and observing and learning from others."

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