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Glen Ellyn District 41 board requests more information before full-day kindergarten decision

GLEN ELLYN – Glen Ellyn School District 41 Board of Education members have requested more information before they decide whether to add full-day kindergarten to the district's offerings.

At a Monday meeting, the board named four major items it wants to identify before committing to a plan. The goal is to collect the information prior to November and then present it to the board. The first item is to determine if all-day kindergarten is something the community wants.

In last week's State of the District address, Superintendent Paul Gordon said he was in favor of full-day kindergarten and school staff are in agreement.

"Our educators, our principals, believe in full-day kindergarten," he said.

Currently, District 41 has a half-day kindergarten program that is in session for 2.5-hours daily.

The district plans to send out a survey to the community to find out what interest level it has in full-day kindergarten and whether it would be willing to pay for it.

"If we do decide to go full-day kindergarten, it's going to take the full support of this town given all the steps that have to happen," said board member Dean Elger.

The second item the board wanted was a better idea of operational costs associated with the program.

Gordon said that if it were approved, the district would hire full-time kindergarten teachers. The district would also likely have to take on transportation costs, he said.

The financial aspect was one of board members' biggest concerns. Several members brought up Senate Bill 16, which, if approved, would redistribute taxes from wealthier school districts to districts with less funds.

According to a letter from Gordon to the community, Senate Bill 16 could cost the district $1.9 million within four years.

Gordon has also previously said a referendum would likely be needed to support full-day kindergarten.

"I just don't see how we're going to be able to manage it financially," said board member Patrick Escalante.

The third item the board wanted was a better idea of what kind of space would be necessary for the program. Gordon has said previously that if it were approved, the district would likely have to build another elementary school to accommodate the increase in students.

Gordon said Monday that 75 to 80 percent of existing classroom space is being used during the school day.

Board President John Kenwood said the program makes sense to him and he would be in favor of bringing back portable classrooms to make it happen.

The fourth item the board wanted addressed was whether all students or only at-risk students would benefit from full-day kindergarten.

At the State of the District, Gordon identified an achievement gap in the district. Lower-income students are scoring lower on standardized tests than other students. Gordon said full-day kindergarten was something that would help reduce that gap.

Board member Drew Ellis said he wasn't convinced full-day kindergarten was the solution, but board member Joe Bochenski said the board needs to do something to lessen the achievement gap before it gets worse.

"If we don't attack the gap, these numbers will come down," he said.

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