Monday, March 18, 2013
Parents Divided Over Five-Day, All-Day Kindergarten
By James Lomuscio
Westport parents remained strongly divided at tonight’s school board meeting over School Superintendent Elliott Landon’s push for five-day, all-day kindergarten instead of the current three full-day and two extended-day setup.
Elliott Landon: urges approval of five-day, all-day kindergarten. Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Proponents of the plan, who also included elementary school administrators, offered an array of arguments, from successes in other school districts, to students wanting to embrace more school time, to cost savings on bus runs, to one mother saying the days her child comes home early are exhausting.
Those troubled by the plan, including school board member Mark Mathias, argued that unstructured, creative play in necessary to a child’s overall social and academic development not found in 40-hour weeks thrust upon 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds.
“It’s kindergarten,” stressed Mathias, describing himself as conflicted. “Education isn’t always about academics. Not being in school an extra two hours a day, you run around with your friends, and you learn there, too.”
Landon stressed that the extra time was developmentally appropriate and “can offer a more relaxed atmosphere,” as the state demands more common core, academic standards for kindergarten.
“It’s my opinion that if we don’t go with full, five-day, there will be less time on developmental activities and more time on academics,” Landon said.
Elaine Whitney, school board chairwoman, noted that the board will continue discussions with the public at its April 8 meeting, at which time the board will vote.
School board member Michael McGovern asked what would be the effect of full-day on kindergarten children of different ages, since they range from 4 to 6.
Landon said that he spent 10 years in Longbeach, N.Y., which had five-day, all-day kindergarten, “and we mixed them together, and they worked well together.”
“It was a fabulous, fabulous program that prepared them for what we cannot,” he said.
McGovern later said that since the added time represented only a 12 percent increase in class time, and “if we don’t do it, the downside risk is greater.”
When it was time for the parents to speak, a lineup of supporters was followed by detractors.
“Let’s get past the nostalgia and past the emotion,” said parent Rod Cooper, who described himself as an international business leader. “The old standards don’t apply anymore.”
Parent Sherry Gordon asked the board to “look at the facts, not the emotion,” and support five-day, all-day kindergarten becuase her children felt “the short days were too stressful” as more work was required in less time.
Caroline Iannucci spoke against the plan, saying that educational trends “come and go, but what does not change is the way children learn.”
“We cannot overlook the power of play,” she said. “What children learn when left to their own devises is invaluable.”
“I’m sorry about this thing we’re going to lose,” said David Nelson. “I had free time in the afternoon, and I like the idea of my kids (playing) around in the yard.”
“Send the children home,” said the last parent, a mother, to speak on the issue. “Let us teach them one to one, not 21 to 1.”
Comments: Comment Policy
Seems the good Dr. Landon has had a case of Bloombergitis of late.
All Hail Landon!
Note: WestportNow Publisher Gordon F. Joseloff is also First Selectman of Westport