East Lyme - The Board of Education approved adding a full-day kindergarten program to the 2013-14 school year budget at its meeting Monday.
Implementing full-day kindergarten has been part of the school district's long-range plan adopted last year. A committee of parents, teachers, board members and administrators began studying the possibility of full-day kindergarten last year.
In two presentations to the board, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Brian Reas said the program could provide students opportunities for more in-depth curriculum, personalized learning and time spent learning the curriculum and the Common Core State Standards.
Niantic Center School kindergarten teacher Lorraine Mattison told the board that a full-day kindergarten would "enrich all aspects of the curriculum." She also explained how the new Common Core State standards require additional math skills, such as being able to count to 100 in 1's and 10's, whereas before schools might only require students to count to 30 in kindergarten.
With only a half day, "we simply do not have enough time to teach the skills necessary for our children to be successful in first grade," she said.
At a community forum held last spring, about 90 percent of the 87 parents, staff and community member in attendance said full-day kindergarten would be beneficial for East Lyme, according to Reas.
When asked by a board member about opposition to full-day kindergarten, Reas said a few parents had said they already made arrangements to spend half a day with their children and that some people questioned if the town could afford it.
He also said parents were overwhelmingly opposed to having a lottery system determine which students could attend full-day kindergarten.
The program would cost between about $350,000 to $400,000, according to Superintendent of Schools James Lombardo. About 153 students are expected to enroll in kindergarten for the 2013-14 school year. The plan could add about five full-time kindergarten teachers, but the details would be determined in the budget, said Lombardo.
Board of Education Chairman Timothy Hagen praised the district's kindergarten staff members by saying that he was amazed at all they have been able to achieve in half a day. He added that implementing a full-day kindergarten is "the right thing to do for the 21st century."