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Newton Parents Speak Up For Full-Day Kindergarten [Poll]

More than a dozen parents spoke up during a public comment period at Monday's School Committee meeting.

The first School Committee meeting of the year was jam-packed Monday night with a group of parents who had one thing on their minds: full-day kindergarten. 

More than a dozen local parents stood up during the public comment period of Monday night's meeting to urge the School Committee and superintendent to seriously consider a full-day kindergarten program. 

"When I found out our kindergarten in Newton was three half days and two full days, I was shocked," said parent Aimee Pandey. "Kindergarten was shorter than preschool." 

The district currently has a "hybrid" kindergarten model, where students attend some full days and some half days. The groups are split up, allowing only half the students at a time to stay for the afternoons, which gives an opportunity for individualized instruction.

A similar hybrid model is used in Wellesley. 

According to  parent Emily Norton, the district formed a full-day kindergarten "task force" two years ago, but nothing has happened since.

"Two years ago, the future looked bright in terms of making the change...two years after the task force, nothing has happened," Norton said. 

During the fiscal 2013 budget process, Newton administrators said they program. However, the district estimated the cost for the program would be about $1.2 million. 

That $1.2 million would fund aides in every kindergarten classroom, a model that administrators said is used in Newton's "peer districts."

With the district's enrollment on the rise, Superintendent David Fleishman said Monday night that the $1.2 million needed to be used to hire teachers and add classrooms to cope with enrollment growth.

"I've been here two years and we had a $4 million budget gap the first year and a ton of enrollment growth," Fleishman said Monday night. "It has been a real challenge fiscally." 

Earlier this year, . 

Nevertheless, some parents argued Monday night that investing in full day kindergarten will help with academic needs and costs in later grades. 

"One must consider not just the cost of action, but the cost of inaction, said parent Roger Mantie. "The failure to implement [full-day kindergarten] simply shifts costs down the line."

During Monday's meeting, parents argued several other benefits to having full-day kindergarten, including the idea of keeping schedules consistent of kids.

Going from a full-day preschool program to a half-day kindergarten program is "moving backwards", several parents said, and the hybrid model can be disruptive for children as well as a cost burden for families who have to find after-school care for those half days.

Some parents also expressed frustration as to whether they would stay in the Newton Public Schools if the full-day kindergarten is not implemented. 

"[At my school in Korea] indoor plumbing didn't exist, but I had full-day kindergarten" said future parent and owner Eunice Feller. "To think my son, a generation and a half removed, would get a lesser education is appalling to me as an immigrant." 

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