By Julie Ross
A free full-time kindergarten program for the Caldwell-West Caldwell
Public Schools is coming closer to reality. Following a unanimous late
August vote by Caldwell-West Caldwell Board of Education members, a question pertaining to such a question will appear on the local ballot this coming November 6.
According to West Caldwell Board of Education member John King, the voters will be asked whether the Caldwell-West Caldwell school
district’s 2018-2019 budget should be increased by $600,000. If the
allocation is approved, that sum will cover the employment of additional personnel, as well as the acquisition of additional supplies needed to implement a full-day kindergarten program. An explanation of the ballot question stipulates that the proposed budget would cover the salary of five kindergarten teachers and five aides, along with transportation and supervision for students.
Increasing the budget would “allow the school district to offer a full-day experience for kindergarteners, most likely via half-day at Harrison School, beginning in the fall of 2019,” the explanation states. It also includes a stipulation that funds allocated for full-time kindergarten in the 2018-2019 budget would be used for any renovation of facilities undertaken next summer.
On July 16 of this year, the Caldwell-West Caldwell school district was
informed that it had been allocated an additional $369,073 in state aid.
When word of the allocation reached the public, many questioned why the funds had not been directed to offset the expenditure involved in creating and introducing a full-day kindergarten to the district, but was instead directed elsewhere in what King called the board’s balanced approach to the district’s needs. The monies, he said, were divided, with $119,000 returned to taxpayers and the balance, earmarked for security enhancements and to fund staffing needs, such as a full-time counselor for Wilson Elementary School and a new administrative position—Director of Secondary Education—that has garnered Board of Education approval.
The idea of offering a full-time kindergarten program in the Caldwell-
West Caldwell district has been entertained previously. Two years ago, dozens of parents attended a Caldwell-West Caldwell Board of
Education meeting to show their support for a full-time kindergarten
initiative. At the time, according to Caldwell-West Caldwell Board of
Education minutes, parents who were in favor of a full-day kindergarten option expressed the belief that it would provide their children with more hands-on learning opportunities, in turn better preparing them for the Common Core standards. Some parents also said attending a full-time kindergarten would improve their childrens’ performance in STEM-related classes in the third and fourth grades.
Caldwell residents with children who attend or will attend the Caldwell- West Caldwell, all of whom asked to remain anonymous, expressed mixed reactions to the idea of a full-time kindergarten program. A few said it was not necessary, with some adding that additional allocations would be better spent on shored-up school security. Others said they consider such a program to be a valuable option that would not only benefit students, but also eliminate the need for parents who want to see their child attend kindergarten full-time to send them to private schools until it is time to enter first grade.
By Julie Ross