Next fall, Westford parents will get their first chance to send children into a public full-day kindergarten. On Thursday, those parents got a chance to find their own answers about that program.
Several dozen parents came to the Stony Brook School auditorium to hear a presentation on the six years of planning behind full-day kindergarten by Superintendent Bill Olsen and Assistant Superintendent Kerry Clery, followed by a question and answer session.
The program will include a full-day kindergarten class in the Miller, Robinson and Nabnasset Schools, a non-academic extended day program at each school and an integrated full-day kindergarten, designed to help children with integrated education plans, or IEPs.
These classes will join existing half-day public programs at the schools, although Clery provided details on the similarities and differences between half-day and full-day offerings, in particular surrounding curriculum.
Almost all of the assembled parents in the crowd showed their support for a public full-day option in a show of hands, but opinions on the program itself varied after hearing from Olsen and Clery.
Mike Khusid has a child currently in kindergarten and another child that will be attending kindergarten in two years.
In his eyes, this program is long overdue, but he fears its format may eventually be its undoing.
“I understand why they did what they did, but they created a very complex system,” he said. “So I’m looking at that system as something is going to break in the first year, which is a little bit concerning.”
Like Kuhusid, fellow parents Peng-Yung Zeng and Divi Lohiya also found Olsen’s presentation informative. However, they were slightly more optimistic.
Zeng currently has a child in the Robinson School’s morning half-day program and she hopes to put her next child into the full-day program this year. She worries about the timing of the lottery though, which could be too late for her registration needs.
“We’ve compared the half-day program and (private) full-day program and we really like the full-day program. So we’re really excited they started a full-day program so my son can go full day (in public schools) next year,” she said. “I asked if they could push up the lottery, because with the private full-day we need to make a decision by March 1 whether we will go or not.
While Zeng will enroll her child in full-day kindergarten whether it is public or private, In the case of Lohiya, his child will be in a public, non-day care option: either half-day or full-day.
For him, the preference comes in part to scheduling and a longer day providing additional socialization opportunities for his daughter.
“It was useful to hear what questions came from other people,” said Lohiya. “The reason we are in Westford is because we want our kids to be in public (schools).”
The majority of the just under two-hour presentation was spent on questions to Olsen, who concluded the night pleased with the amount of information he was able to provide to the assembled parents.
“I was very appreciative to see as many parents come out tonight,” said Olsen. “It’s an indication that there’s a significant interest in full-day kindergarten in our school system. We haven’t had it in the history of our school system, but I think we need to accelerate the timeline of its programming in the Westford Public Schools.”
There will be four lotteries: a lottery for the full-day classes, followed by the integrated classes, slots not in the child’s nearby school, and extended day kindergarten day care.
Those lotteries will take place through March and April, with an application deadline of March 23.
For any children who are drawn in the lottery, parents will need to pay a $420 deposit and submit $3,780 in three installments.
Additional informational nights will be held later in the spring.