The 2013-14 school year may be just over a week old, but the West Irondequoit School District is already looking ahead to fall 2015.
That’s when the district would like to start offering full-day kindergarten, an option that is currently not available. The district presently has just half-day kindergarten.
“Full-day kindergarten is the next step in providing our kids with the best we possibly can,” said West Irondequoit Superintendent Jeff Crane Monday morning. He said the district’s board of education has done two studies, by different groups, on full-day kindergarten as well.
Making the change won’t be simple, and will require a public vote.
Since the district now offers two kindergarten classes a day, but in the same room, it would need to build classrooms, Crane said.
The good news is that when four of the district’s six primary buildings was demolished and rebuilt less than 15 years ago, they were constructed to accommodate future expansion, said the district’s assistant superintendent for finance and personnel, Dr. Tim Terranova. Crane said he expects the new classroom construction would cost about $10 million.
The district is currently working with a consultant to structure the project to maximize state aid, which would be available in the form of building aid and additional aid that is available for converting to full-day kindergarten.
The goal, said the district’s director of finance, James Brennan, is to accomplish the project without a tax increase.
Consultants are also helping determine “how best to make the move,” Brennan said, explaining that voters could be asked to create a capital reserve account in which would be “saved” $10 million, or could be asked for permission to bond, or borrow, that amount.
Crane said the goal is to have the vote on the project no later than next May. It could be on the ballot for the budget vote and school board election next spring. It could also be sooner.
“If the community votes yes, we want to do the project as quickly as possible,” Crane said.
Each of the district’s primary buildings currently houses an average of 165 students.
“We think students would get the most benefit from spending more time with our teachers,” Crane said. “The bottom line is that our students would be better served.”
Crane also acknowledged that he gets questions “a least a half-dozen times a year,” about full-day kindergarten, and also hears from realtors that it is becoming an important factor for families considering the purchase of a home.
Several districts in the area already offer full-day kindergarten. The Webster School District started offering it this fall.
Watching his own granddaughter get ready for kindergarten, Crane added, “I realized that a half-day program for her would be a step backward.”