WALLINGFORD — The Board of Education approved a plan Monday night to adopt a full-day kindergarten program and increase enrollment in its preschool program.
The plan would cost about $1.3 million, increasing annual instruction time for kindergartners from 450 to 900 hours.
The motion passed 6 to 2, with board members Michael Votto, Kathy Castelli, Jay Cei, Chet Miller, Roxane McKay and Christine Mansfield voting in favor. Patrick Reynolds and Joe Marrone were opposed. Member Michael Brooder was absent. Since the board’s budget won’t be approved until June, it is possible funding for the expansion may not be available.
The plan was presented to the board by the Early Childhood Exploratory Committee, made up of members of the community, teachers and school administrators. Earlier this month, the committee had discussed a hybrid plan that would have had kindergartners attending a full day two days a week. The plan adopted by the school board Monday night has kindergartners attending a full day five days per week.
Votto said some preschool students need more time to develop skills needed for kindergarten and kindergartners need more time for socialization.
“That time of socializing is so darn important” Votto said.
School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo agreed with the concept that both preschool education and kindergarten needed to be strengthened.
“Both options are very important and you have to have them in tandem,” he said.
Jenny Cabral, a parent and another member of the early childhood committee, said the increase in instructional time for kindergartners wouldn’t mean more school work. Instead, she said, the time would be used for more socialization to further develop social and emotional skills.
“That allows the gift of time. One thing we all agreed upon was not advocating longer days to add academics. We wanted to add structured play into their day,” she described. “... We felt children could benefit with more structured play and benefit from play as studies have shown.”
The committee believed it was “critically important” to address preschool-aged students in its recommendation to the board because it allows them to develop social and emotional skills, said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Shawn Parkhurst, who was chairman of the group.
Arlene Cassello, a member of the committee, added that out of the 63 students in the school system’s preschool this year, only three needed further assistance in kindergarten.
“Our research showed that early childhood education is critically important,” Parkhurst said. “The data is so rich of what a student is able to do in kindergarten.”
McKay added that because the board won’t know the official budget until June, it’s possible the program won’t be funded and would be cut. Despite this, Menzo and the board applauded the committee for its work done.
“The steps you’ve taken tonight will certainly impact students of the future,” Menzo said.