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  • Megann Horstead

District 28 launching full-day kindergarten in the fall


Northbrook District 28 is gearing up to launch full-day kindergarten this fall – making it one of many area school districts to implement the program – with officials voting 5-0 at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

Among those not in attendance for the vote was board president Joshua Prober and board member Michael Gilmore.

The decision comes after several months of discussion, where many factors were weighed, various funding solutions were explored and community feedback was sought.

As it stands now, extended-day kindergarten teachers at District 28 may not always be certified. In a new full-day program, all faculty members will be required to possess the necessary credentials.

“We have an opportunity to enhance a piece of our educational experience and this particular experience focuses on kindergarten,” Superintendent Dr. Larry Hewitt said. “So, in working with the principals and talking with the kindergarten teachers… we believe that full-day kindergarten is an enhancement over what we have now.”

Board member Tracy Katz Muhl pointed out how other area districts have no one opting out of their programs. Officials for District 28 expect that 75 percent of parents will have a desire to put their child in full-day kindergarten – a number they hope will grow.

In situations, for example, where students may require extra attention or further opportunities for enrichment, both students in half-day and full-day programs would see the benefit. The extension of time allows for children to maximize classroom time spent learning.

Board member Louis Gross said he sees room for great learning and enrichment when envisioning full-day kindergarten at District 28.

“The fact that there’s an opportunity to reinforce it in the afternoon makes it better,” he said. “I think Tracy also raises a good point where even kids that are in the half-day, they get the benefit of better opportunities for one-on-one time because there’s one-on-one time in the afternoon for the kids.”

Hewitt mirrored that sentiment, explaining how the learning experience won’t be curtailed for anyone under the new program, but it will be enhanced.

“Our core science that we teach is not going to be diminished in the half-day program,” Hewitt said. “That piece is there and will continue to be there. I do think that we’re going to have a lot of parents who are going to see the benefits of some enrichment activities we’re going to be able to tie to the classroom.”

To run the new program, officials for District 28 estimate that it will cost $524,400 after making a number of budget adjustments. Full-day kindergarten will be implemented in accordance with a $475 fee, which is optional to parents should they decide their child will not participate.

Board members came to a consensus at their special meeting on Thursday, Feb. 11, saying how reductions in time for instruction aides and library aides, as well as a cut to an administrative position and increases in class size were deemed restricted. Of the expenditures to see reductions are monies allotted for conferences/workshops, building improvements, technology, summer professional development, among other items.

With these projections carried out, officials are expecting to pull in $724,009 through budget cuts, a curriculum fee increase and full-day kindergarten fee. The cost of the new program and a revenue loss stemming from the elimination of extended-day kindergarten, valued at $200,000, allows District 28 to rake in a cost savings of $391.

Katz Muhl said having the board members come to an agreement regarding the funding proposal says a lot about the district and its commitment to students.

“We have brought this down substantially to a point where we’re less than $150 away from our nearest neighbor in D31’s kindergarten fees,” she said. “We will have a generous policy available for our partners with Glenview/Northbrook Youth Services, so that we won’t have children opting out for financial reasons. They’ll be opting out because they’re parents have made a decision that alternative enrichment elsewhere at home is better for them. I feel good about that being equitable in the big picture.”

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