ELMHURST – An all-day kindergarten program is necessary in Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 to equip students with the skills necessary for 21st-century learning and to ensure the district remains a leader in future-ready learning.
That's the message the All-Day Kindergarten Committee delivered during an extensive presentation at the May 8 Board of Education meeting.
The nine-member committee includes three principals and six teachers from throughout the district. Several members took turns giving the presentation, which offered several reasons why all-day kindergarten is essential.
“Kindergarten has become the new first grade in recent years, yet no additional time in the district has been allocated to compensate for the increase in content and academic expectations for students, while still maintaining the overall development of the whole-child approach, which best serves our youngest learners," said Susan Kondrat, principal of Madison Early Childhood Education Center and chairwoman of the All-Day Kindergarten Committee.
The growth in all-day kindergarten programs has occurred for several years, according to the committee's presentation.
In fact, from 1977 to 2013, the national percentage of students enrolled in all-day kindergarten tripled. Additionally, 21 of the 33 school districts in DuPage County offer all-day kindergarten, and 79 percent of districts throughout the state offer the option, the presentation stated.
“Elmhurst is becoming an outlier in the county and the state by not offering an all-day kindergarten option for students in Elmhurst," said Jane Bailey, a committee member and the principal of Fischer Elementary School.
The community supports all-day kindergarten, according to the presentation.
For instance, four out of five residents who responded to a 2017 community phone poll supported the idea. Additionally, 87 percent of 159 current kindergarten parents who responded to a survey expressed an interest in an all-day program, the presentation stated.
Finally, the district's first-grade enrollment has increased over the past few years, which may indicate families are enrolling students in all-day kindergarten programs outside the district and returning to District 205 for first grade.
“The numbers only highlight that the community would like all-day kindergarten and are finding options outside of District 205," Bailey said.
Committee members added several studies indicate students perform better in all-day kindergarten programs because there is more time for social, emotional and intellectual development.
“With the full-day kindergarten program, students will have an enriched experience in social and emotional learning," said Brooke Kline, a special education teacher at Jackson Elementary School and a committee member.
The half-day program does not provide sufficient time for instruction and enrichment, committee members said.
For example, District 205's half-day kindergarten program includes only 25 minutes for math instruction, and writing is only taught twice a week in order to accommodate other classes. Additionally, the half-day program does not include time for purposeful play.