BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -- The wait is over. Between Monday, Dec. 9, and Jan. 5, 2020, applications will be accepted for the lottery that will decide who will attend the district’s full-day Kindergarten (FDK) pilot program. The Pilot Program will begin in September 2020. 

The announcement was made at Thursday night’s school board meeting by Superintendent Melissa Varley, who said, “After 20 years of discussion … full-day Kindergarten is finally coming to Berkeley Heights Public Schools.”

The board considered two options: implementing Universal Full Day Kindergarten or running a Pilot Program. The recommendation was to run a Pilot Program.

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  • There will be two full classes of 18 students each

  • The two classes will be held in Woodruff School

  • Parents will transport children to and from school

  • Acceptance will be based on a lottery

  • Tuition will be $7,500 and paid by the family

The students will follow the same schedule as all Woodruff School students, arriving between 8:25 and 8:40 a.m. Lunch and recess will be held from 11:25 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Dismissal will be 2:50 p.m.

Applications will be accepted between Dec. 9, 2019 and Jan. 15, 2020. The lottery will take place on Jan. 22, 2020. Parents will be notified of acceptance by Jan. 31, 2020. A non-refundable deposit of 50 percent will be due by March 15, 2020. Final payment will be due by July 1, 2020.

The district will need to purchase classroom furniture equipment, supplies, and playground equipment suitable for Kindergarten-age children. Paper, pencils, crayons and typical classroom supplies will also need to be purchased. Two Kindergarten teachers will be needed, along with one HELP teacher. In addition, student needs will determine the need for a special education teacher, paraprofessionals and other staff members. The program costs would be part of the 2020/2021 budget, Felezzola said.

The slide presentation for the FDK Pilot Program discussed on Nov. 14, can be found here.

Recent History of FDK Proposals

Thursday's proposal for a FDK program was the off-shoot of three presentations, one in 2014, the other on Aug. 16, 2018, by Board President Doug Reinstein, and one in March 2019.

In July 2014, Anne Corley-Hand, principal of Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Learning Center, discussed the educational advantages of FDK. She was asked to report back with more research in October 2014. An article in TAPinto on that meeting describes Corley-Hand’s follow-up report, including statistics on costs, types of districts adopting FDK programs and more. 

In August 2018, Reinstein brought up the topic of FDK under "new business" and listed some areas to be researched. He suggested the board take another look at the Corley-Hand report on FDK and asked administrators to start seeing what was possible. He asked them to report back in January 2019. 

The administrators missed the January deadline, but on March 14, 2019, Acting Superintendent Dr. Richard Noonan, Business Administrator Donna Felezzola, Corley-Hand, and Director of Special Services Michele Gardner each provided insight into what would be required to implement the program. That slide show can be found on the district website here.

Board members questioned whether students at Woodruff would have the opportunity to socialize with the students attending half-day Kindergarten classes at Mary Kay McMillin and were assured they would. Corley-Hand said students would be bused to assemblies and special monthly events.

Board member Denis Smalley questioned how the lottery would work -- and was told it would work the way the current pre-school lottery system operates. When applying for the lottery, the parents would only have to provide the child’s name, birth date and a contact number.

Reinstein said it would be “a random selection … there are no Kindergarten interviews.” 

Corley-Hand confirmed that.

Board member Dr. Gerard Crisonino questioned the need for parents to provide their own transportation, then was reminded that students attending the FDK would be coming from all over town, not just from within the Woodruff school district.