Parents Unite for Kindergarten

The Guilford school system is one of only 36 towns out of the 169 in the state that hasn't adopted an all-day kindergarten program and the only school system from East Lyme to East Haven that still has the part-time schedule in place for its young students, and some parents in town are getting worried.

"Right now Guilford kindergarten students are only getting 450 hours of schooling per year," said Courtney Rinaldi, who has started a website and petition in support of full-day kindergarten in Guilford. "Students in other school systems are getting 900 hours of schooling at this point with full-day kindergarten."

Rinaldi, a pre-school behavioral consultant for several schools, including Essex Elementary School, is also the mom of a 3 ½ year old. The petition she is asking others to sign states, "This is a petition started by parents of Guilford pre-schoolers looking to show support for bringing full-day kindergarten to Guilford. With new Common Core requirements, diminishing social and play opportunities, and falling behind other school districts along the shoreline that have already established full-day kindergarten programs, it is time for Guilford to initiate full-day programming for their future young students."

At press time, the petition, which was created just a week ago, already had 248 signatures, and its Facebook page had 133 likes.

"It's really been an explosion of support," said Rinaldi. "Parents of preschool-aged children in town are uniting together to get this change and we hope it happens soon."

According to Rinaldi, reasons to extend the school day for kindergarteners include allowing the transition from topic to topic to slow and providing more time for recess and special activities like art and music as well as more time in the classroom to focus on things like fine motor skills and social skills, all of which could provide the chance to better prepare students for upcoming Common Core requirements. There is also thought that full-day kindergarten may decrease the number of kids needing remediation in the 1st grade.

"We just want our town and our school system to be up to date and level with the surrounding towns in regard to education. We want what is best for kids," Rinaldi said. "I moved to Guilford four years ago and one reason I did was because of the school system. I fear that people looking to move in now may question why we still don't have full-day kindergarten and perhaps choose to live in an adjacent town that offers this."

Lori Hahn, communication coordinator for the Guilford Board of Education explained, "At this point the board and the administrators are gathering information and researching the projected costs of introducing full-day kindergarten."

She added, "There has been no decision made at this time about the issue for the 2014-'15 school year. We are aware that there is public interest about full-day kindergarten; we are considering it very seriously. We have always taken this issue seriously, and the collection of research on the issue has been an ongoing process. The district understands that there are good reasons to consider the matter, however, we are currently looking at the feasibility of making this important change."

Past concerns from the district include the price tag, as well as the spatial needs. The four elementary school principals have been directed to research the subject further. A group of parents, including Rinaldi, have scheduled to meet with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Freeman to discuss the issue in more depth before the budget process for the next school year is fully underway.

The next Board of Education meeting will be held on Monday, Jan. 13 in the High School Library. A Public Hearing in regard to the 2014-'15 budget will be held on Monday, Jan. 27 at 7:30 at the Adams Middle School in the chorus room. Rinaldi encourages all concerned parents and Guilford residents to come to the public hearing and support the full-day kindergarten option.

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