Forest to implement all-day kindergarten
Forest Elementary School to implement all-day kindergarten
Posted on 10/30/2014
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WEST HAVEN, Oct. 27, 2014 — The Board of Education has approved a proposal that will allow Forest Elementary School to implement all-day kindergarten, a move that’s aligned with district goals of enhancing early childhood education and providing a more solid academic foundation for young students.

Members unanimously approved the plan for full-day kindergarten classes, which will begin in December at Forest, at their regularly scheduled Oct. 20 meeting.

District administrators had made a presentation to board members about the plan, explaining that Forest’s lower-than-projected kindergarten enrollment numbers and Title I status contributed to the decision to bring all-day kindergarten to the school. Forest has been labeled by the state as a “review school” that needs more assistance, and it receives Title I grant funds, which are distributed to schools considered to have high needs.

The district had initially planned to only offer an extended-day kindergarten class at Forest for youngsters who needed extra assistance, and had included funding for it in this year’s budget. But a financial analysis after enrollment figures were finalized showed that for around $5,000 more, a full-day program—instead of one extended-day class-- could be offered to the 93 students currently in Forest’s morning and afternoon kindergarten classes.

This will be the second district school to move to an all-day kindergarten program this year, as Savin Rock Community School began operating full-day classes when school started Aug. 27. The district has opted to begin phasing in all-day kindergarten with Forest and Savin Rock because they are “review schools” and receive Title I funding.

The district hopes to expand full-day kindergarten to all schools over the next few years and has been evaluating space, financial and staffing needs at each elementary building.

“We’re so pleased the Board of Education supported the plan for Forest and that we can get the program into a second school this year. We’re already seeing how kids are benefitting from it at Savin Rock, and we’re confident Forest will also see positive results,” Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro said. “The concern with doing full-day kindergarten has always been sustainability. That’s why we are doing this in phases—so we can slowly build the expense into the budget and make the program a permanent one as we bring it into each elementary school.” 

As the curriculum for older grades has gotten more rigorous, kindergarten lessons in math and literacy have advanced as well.  With a recently redesigned kindergarten curriculum, West Haven students are expected to move on to first grade with more skills than in the past. Offering all-day kindergarten is an important step in further strengthening West Haven students’ early academic experiences.

Forest currently has three kindergarten rooms and will turn an interactive white board lab into a fourth. One new teacher and one new paraprofessional, who will be bilingual to accommodate the approximately 23 kindergarteners who speak another language, will be hired for the program.

Currently, three Forest teachers each have a morning and an afternoon kindergarten class.  Each teacher’s morning and afternoon classes will mostly be combined under the new schedule, with some being taken from each to be in the new teacher’s room.

No buses will need to be added, and mid-day routes will be eliminated for Forest, which will bring some cost savings.

Administrators believe that although the program is starting a few months into the school year, there will be a smooth transition, since kindergarteners will have had the chance to build stamina to stay in school longer and now understand school routines and expectations. Parents will also have more than a month to make modifications to their existing childcare arrangements, if necessary.

Stefania Larry, who oversees early childhood education, noted that many pre-kindergarten and school readiness programs are a full day, so many students have already experienced such a schedule prior to entering kindergarten.

School leaders explained that kindergarten teachers will have more time to delve into the curriculum and provide extra academic supports. Early intervention is key if a child is struggling in a certain area.

“I think the kids are ready, and we’re excited for the opportunity,” Forest Principal Thomas Hunt said. “We’re ready to make it happen.”

The school held a meeting about the news for kindergarten parents during Parent Visiting Day and will continue to update parents on the change.

Click here for the letter that went home to Forest kindergarten parents.

Contact: Communications Director Susan Misur, 203-937-4300 X7114;