Thursday, April 25, 2002

Cape considers all-day kindergarten

Published in the Current

The Cape Elizabeth School Board will consider going to all-day kindergarten to help plan for a building project that would expand Pond Cove to house kindergarten classes.

The board plans to use old research from a few years ago, when the town first considered going to all-day kindergarten, and gather new information from other districts that have already switched to all-day kindergarten.

A committee recommended implementing all-day kindergarten a few years ago, but the district did not have enough space for it at the time, according to School Board member Elaine Moloney.

Moloney was part of the group that discussed the issue in the late 1990s and now will lead the effort to summarize those findings and report to the board.

The issue has come up again as a result of the planning phase of the building project. If Cape wants all-day kindergarten in the future, building space for it now would be most cost-effective, according to School Board member and Building Committee Chairman Marie Prager.

There is evidence that all-day kindergarten can provide an academic benefit to kids in an urban environment, many of whom have not attended preschool, according to Prager and Superintendent Tom Forcella. They do not have information about its effectiveness in an environment like Cape Elizabeth.

Prager said other benefits of all-day kindergarten can include increased socialization of children, and reduced pressure on kids and teachers alike to pack as much as possible into a two-and-a-half hour kindergarten session.

As part of her reporting, Moloney will follow up on nearby schools that have implemented all-day kindergarten to see what they have experienced. She said one option could be extending the length of kindergarten sessions beyond their current schedule but still less than a full day.

She said some other districts offer a free half-day kindergarten and have made it possible for parents to pay for an extended kindergarten session, but she did not know the details or legalities concerned with such an idea.

Moloney expects to have a report back to the board later in the spring or early summer, to fit in with the planning of the Pond Cove expansion.

Forcella has said that all-day kindergarten will not necessarily begin as soon as construction is complete and that he expects it to be phased in over a period of time.