continued The general consensus among board members was that the educational impact of cutting back to half-day kindergarten far outweighed any budgetary benefit.
“I can see why it might be an option that has been suggested,” said board member Pat DeBona-Rosier. “It’s a goodly amount of money. However, having said that, and given some of the cuts that we have made — the dissolution of the universal pre-K program, the dissolution of the transitional first program, the fact that this will affect every single 5- and 6-year-old in the district, given all the research that shows how important it is that we have a solid early educational experience and what the fallout is if we do not — I personally see this as a step backwards for our district.”
Rosier’s concerns were echoed by other members of the board.
“I think one of the things that we are continuing to do is erode the educational program because the finances continue to wither away,” said board member Rick Pento. “With the loss of the UPK program, to further exacerbate that situation with the reduction of kindergarten to half-day, even though it is a significant amount of money, it’s one of those things we’ve got to pay our money now to save money down the road.”
Board member James Root, a former kindergarten teacher, reflected on his experience in teaching both half-day and full-day kindergarten.
“The difference is incredible,” Root said. “I was a very stressed-out half-day kindergarten teacher. That’s why I went to first grade and second grade. When I had the chance to go back to full-day kindergarten, I was a much better teacher and the kids had a much better program.”
However, both board member Stacy Balduf and board President Don Cook cautioned that, when it came down to making up that $10 million budget gap, the board might have to be more discerning.