Education Committee of Summit BOE Backs Idea of Full-Day Kindergarten

Julie Glazer, assistant superintendent of Summit schools, goes over the successes of the 2012 summer programs in the district that included the Summit Summer Skills at the middle school and SNAP (Summer Needs Assessment Program) amd the ESY (Extended School Year) program at the Jefferson Primary Center. Credits: Edward Kensik
Laura Burr, head of the FLASH program in Summit, talks about the successes of the summer enrichment program that saw a rise in enrollment after a drop the last few years. The FLASH summer program included classes in art, science, computer and sports among other activities. Credits: Edward Kensik

SUMMIT, NJ - The education committee of the Summit School board has given its blessing for the idea of a full-day kindergarten, but did not discuss the cost aspects of the proposal.

Most of the members of the city school board agreed with the committee at Thursday's workshop meeting of the board at Summit High School.

The issues of a full-day kindergarten have been bandied about for the last few years including a task force that was formed last year and came out in favor of the full-day kindergarten.

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"We concluded that the full-day kindergarten would benefit Summit children and all of the at-risk children," said School trustee Celia Colbert, head of the education committee that studied full-day kindergarten during the summer. "That's not looking at the cost but that it is something good to have."

The issue is expected to be discussed at the board's next regular meeting on Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Summit High School.

The advocates of the full-day kindergarten point to the fact that 20 percent of the incoming first graders in the district were placed in either remedial reading or math, according to 2011 statistics. This they believe would decrease significantly with the advent of full-day kindergarten.

Colbert admitted that despite the committee's decision that they were still at the beginning of the process in deciding whether to go ahead with the full-day kindergarten. "It's a big deal and it's something that we can't do lightly and quickly," said Colbert.

Julie Glazer, assistant superintendent of schools, pointed out that subject concentration increases with a full-day kindergarten. For instance, she said that students in half-day kindergarten received 60 minutes of math instruction for the week while full-day kindergarten students accumulate 150 minutes of math instruction during the week.

Full-day kindergarten not only affects education but other committees will be affected including facilities committee. School trustee Edgar Mokavos, head of the facilities committee, said that the full-day kindergarten will definitely affect facilities with an expected rise in students and the need to utilize more classrooms.

Some detractors of full-day kindergarten point out that some students are not ready for a full day of school and might question the "consistent quality" of the education, Colbert admitted.

But overall the pluses outweigh the minuses, according to committee members. "If there is a consistent quality, then full-day is better than half-day," said Colbert.

School Board President George Lucaci advocated full-day kindergarten especially since he is envisioning that the state will be mandating full-day kindergarten in the future. New York state recently backed such a mandate.

But the cost factors will be a major hurdle, school trustees admitted. The issue of whether the program will be paid by parents who are using the program or not will be a major issue going forward.

In addition at the school board meeting, the policy committee backed a new policy that would allow student athletes to attend a study hall class during the day instead of physical education when the student's team was in season. The student athletes would be graded by their coaches in place of physical education.

School Trustee Katherine Kalin, head of the policy committee, said the policy is still in committee and is being prepared for first reading.

The idea is not new and has been brought up by the school board in the past, but has been shot down by the Summit school administration, according to school trustees.

Trustees, who are in favor of the move, said that it would help the student athletes in studying for the rest of the classes. They point to the fact that most student athletes come home late at night from practices and games and the study hall will be beneficial to the athletes.

"Any extra time to get ahead of their schedule would make sense," said School Trustee David Dietze, also a member of the policy committee.

Lucaci, an advocate of the move, was hoping that the committee would bring the issue before the board in the near future.

Kalin added that the new policy would be optional for student athletes, but she added there were several 'hurdles' to jump before going ahead. "There are a lot of scheduling hurdles like how do the coaches grade the students," said Kalin.

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