The Roselle School District 12 Board of Education decided to restore full-day kindergarten for the 2019-2020 school year by a vote of 6 Yes, 1 Abstain Tuesday night. The board and administration made the decision after considering public input and studying whether it would be feasible to go back to full-day kindergarten after switching to the half-day program two years ago because of financial concerns.
“The board members and school administrators have been preparing for and discussing this issue ever since we went to half-day kindergarten two years ago. This would not have been possible without the referendum passing and, even with that, the unreliability of state funding made this the toughest decision for me since I joined the board five years ago,” said Board President Rob Bisceglie. “We always have to balance what is in the best interest of our students with our fiscal responsibility to the district and community, and sometimes those are not easy or clear-cut choices. Ultimately, full day kindergarten is in the best interest of our kids, and fortunately we have partnered with our community to position our district to bring back this important educational opportunity for the youngest students in our district.”
The state has underfunded public schools for most of the past decade. Even though a new school funding plan eventually was signed into law last summer, the Roselle district is not estimated to receive much additional funding. None of the new funding has yet been distributed by the state and, with the governor recently vetoing a bill tied to the funding, no one knows when, or if, the new funding will arrive.
Adding to the uncertainty, there have been reports that a state budget stalemate is possible this spring given that this is a gubernatorial election year, and the possibility of a property tax freeze that would cost the district a significant amount of revenue is still under consideration by the General Assembly.
Superintendent Dr. Melissa Kaczkowski said the focus now will be on investigating a model for the full day program, inclusive of curricular materials and professional development for teachers. She said anticipates three sections of full-day kindergarten with about 20 students in each section anticipated but these numbers will be determined based on actual enrollment.
“We will begin the planning process to make sure we make the best possible use of the additional time with our kindergarten students,” said Kaczkowski, noting that the goal would be to maintain the quality of the current half day instructional program and develop a quality complimentary portion for the afternoon.
“We have a ton of work to do to be ready to roll by August of 2019. I am confident that taking the time to plan a quality full day program will pay dividends for the students and for the community”. The Board directed the administration to investigate possible ways to provide some level of extended support during 2018-2019 as a “gap year” until full day Kindergarten returns. Kaczkowski will report back to the Board at a future meeting.