Advocating for all-day kindergarten
AMHERST – Starting full-day kindergarten is the school district’s highest priority, Principal Gerry St. Amand told the School Board recently.
And to ensure that an all-day kindergarten program begins next year at Clark-Wilkins Elementary School, he proposed that all costs be covered in the budget so there is no risk that voters will turn it down again.
In March, Amherst voters soundly rejected a $620,000 warrant article that would have paid for support staff, curriculum materials and three more teachers.
St. Amand said he would strive for a zero percent budget increase and implement the new program by shifting staff around. Much of the curriculum and professional development work has already been done, he said. Full-day kindergarten "fits into our strategic plan" and would help all students go into first grade at the same level, St. Amand said. "This is something we should do," he said.
All-day kindergarten would ensure that all students are getting the same educational opportunities, St. Amand said.
"The curriculum and expectations require it," he said. "The rules have changed."
Amherst school officials and teachers maintain that 5-year-olds need a full day of kindergarten to learn what they need to and have time to explore and enjoy learning.
School Board members, who will be working on next year’s budget over the next few months, told the principal they support his proposal.
At the district’s deliberative session in February, board Chairwoman Lucienne Fouks said all-day kindergarten would boost property values and revitalize the town by attracting young families.
And a longer school day would give the young children more time to learn what they need to learn, she said, because what is expected of 5-year-olds now is drastically different from what was expected years ago.
Mont Vernon Village School instituted kindergarten this school year without asking for voter approval because declining enrollments meant there was sufficient space and staff.
New Hampshire began requiring school districts to offer at least a half-day of kindergarten in 2009.
According to Parenting New Hampshire, the trend toward full-day kindergarten began 15 years ago. In the 1999-2000 school year, full-day kindergarten was available in seven school districts. By 2013-14, the number had grown to 83 districts.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.