No full-day kindergarten in River Forest public schools next year

Committee of the Whole nixes notion till at least 2012


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By Jean Lotus

Contributing Reporter

River Forest School District 90 will not offer full-day kindergarten next year. If and when they do — as early as 2012 — they may charge tuition. Those were the initial conclusions reached in the district's first discussion of full-day kindergarten at a Dist. 90 Committee of the Whole Meeting on Jan. 3.

In a packed Roosevelt Middle School library, the board listened to recommendations of a group of 10 Dist. 90 teachers and administrators. But the board stressed that no decision could be made before next year's kindergarten registration is completed early next month.

"You don't see any bulldozers parked out in front," said board President JuliAnn Geldner.

The committee presented data from neighboring private and public schools — all of which have adopted full-day kindergarten. They also presented data from 23 "comparative" school districts such as Glencoe, Riverside and Hinsdale. More than half of those communities did not offer full-day kindergarten.

Between 60 and 80 local children attend half-day kindergarten at River Forest public schools. Around 100 River Forest children attend full-day programs at local private schools. Oak Park has 595 full-day kindergarteners enrolled — partially paid for by state grants for the 17 percent of children who receive special services. "If state funds were actually paid, [they'd be] coming out ahead," says the report.

One teacher pointed out that full-day students were given "the gift of time" to process the ever-increasing academic demands of kindergarten as well as to learn social and emotional skills like getting along with others and controlling their emotions.

Three versions of full-day kindergarten were proposed:

1. A full-day academic kindergarten.

2. A half-day academic/half-day "extended day" with enrichment activities.

3. A "hybrid" of two extended half-days and three full academic days.

On-site and off-site locations were proposed, including the hypothetical purchase of the 85,000-square-foot former Hines Lumber company property on Madison Street for $2.5 million. However, Lincoln Principal Pam Hyde said an on-site program would be preferable for integrating kindergarten students into school. Hyde said both Lincoln and Willard elementary schools were designed to support second stories. Costs for building a second story on each school for eight extra classrooms (four sections per school) was $2.1 million.

Staff costs would be significantly cheaper for the projected 60-80 kindergarten students with a tuition-based, extended-day option, since classes could be staffed by a teachers' aide instead of a certified teacher.

The board was told that tuition could be charged for extended-day classes, since those activities would qualify as "enrichment." The proposals recommended charging between $20 and $25 per day for the extended-day and hybrid options. This figure was arrived at by comparing prices at five local private schools. Projected revenues for the extended-day option — with no certified teacher and charging tuition — came in between $420,000 and $560,000.

"[Sometimes we forget] schools are a business," said Superintendent Thomas Hagerman.

No tuition could be charged if the board chose to go to a full-day academic schedule. Costs for 4.5 new full-time certified teachers were estimated at $328,635.

Parent Nichole Thompson said she hoped the board would choose a full-day academic program. She said children had trouble transitioning to a full-day of school even if, like hers, they attended half-day programs at River Forest Community Center or other local half-day options. She pointed out that kindergarten-age children wouldn't be too tired in a full-day setting: "They don't get tired on the weekends!"

Rich Moore, parent of three, said he was relieved the board was not making a hasty decision. "Give us parents the gift of time," he said. He was concerned about the off-site proposal and worried that the curriculum would be revised hurriedly.

"I don't like the idea of a half-day with an uncertified teacher," he said later.

Reader Comments

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Nicole from River Forest  

Posted: January 29th, 2011 12:54 AM

I'm 35 years old and I attended full day kindergarten and had time to play with friends. Our children are in school 2.5 hours a day. That includes academics, gym, music, library, and computers to name a few. If you talk to the teachers they will tell you that 2.5 hours is not enough time to cover the material. My children are excited about learning and going to school. My K kid wants to go to school all day with her friends. She asks to stay longer. Our children deserve better.

Mary Richie from Forest Park  

Posted: January 5th, 2011 3:52 PM

When I was a student teacher at Rosary (now Dominican) River Forest was known all over the mid-west for its outstanding two year kindergarten program. The four-year olds came in the morning to Junior Kindergarten and the fives to Senior Kindergarten. Times change and children's needs change as well, but time to make full use of all the rich resources in the community and its surroundings is still important. True learning takes place when there is time for enrichment.

A Parent  

Posted: January 5th, 2011 3:05 PM

Key Words: Option Choice How was it determined that full day kindergarten in Oak Park is a success? Oh, don't tell me: by test scores and anecdotal survey of parents and teachers. It's telling that there have to be little cots in the full day kindergarten classrooms for those children who can't stay awake. Seven hours in a classroom is too much for a five-year old. Full day kindergarten in Oak Park is for the convenience of parents, treachers and is a source of revenue.

Edye from River Forest  

Posted: January 5th, 2011 12:55 PM

I attended to full day Kindergarten, my children attended. And my grandchildren will be going. Being in an enriching/learning environment throughout the day was a positive experience. Nothing wrong with that. If parents want full days for their children, let that be an option. Oak Park's full day program is a success. There are parents in RF who would welcome it. And yes, many of those parents do work. Kids can thrive from that extra dose of learning and fun. Let there be a choice.

Violet Aura  

Posted: January 5th, 2011 12:33 PM

And let's get real here: it's free babysitting. Children will adjust to fulltime school when it's developmentally appropriate. How did I and everyone over the age of 35 survive? We were allowed to be CHILDREN. I feel sorry for kids today. I see them being carted off after school to some sport and I wonder how much downtime they get.


Posted: January 5th, 2011 12:32 PM

All played piano (classical) since 1st grade and participated in band at school for another instrument as well. So no - after school sports were not the issue, it was another part of the Brain.

Violet Aura  

Posted: January 5th, 2011 12:23 PM

@CL: "Ahead" where? Why is everything about being faster and better? So many parents today seem obsessed by their kids playing some sport. I don't see many parents encouraging their children to draw or sing. It's all about winning. The Waldorf school method doesn't even teach children to read until they're nine! This is because they believe that the early years are very much about learning via imaginative play versus drilling stuff into their heads. We are destroying the love of learning!


Posted: January 5th, 2011 12:13 PM

Our childeren, before moving to the area all went to full day kindergarten at a private school. Now in their 20's and in College - they are so much ahead of others who did not. Full day (or at least an extension as suggested) is the way to go.

A. Parent  

Posted: January 5th, 2011 11:48 AM

Why are we in such a hurry to "industrialize" our small children? In Oak Park full day kindergarten was implemented without much consideration to developmental needs of 5 year-olds. If teachers are expected to teach so much more now, why not add an hour or two to the kindergarten day, which would be a child-centered solution. Instead, bus schedules and working parents/child care are given priority--typical narcissistic, in-the-box, western thinking.

Maryanne Rusinak from Oak Park  

Posted: January 5th, 2011 9:41 AM

My four children, now in their 20's and 30's, did so well with half day kindergarten, spending time with family and neighborhood friends in their free time. I guess that was the end of an era. Many young children are overscheduled and would love to spend after school time in their own homes.

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