We are writing to express our strong support for the Westport school administration's proposed change to five full days for kindergarten and to suggest an option which may enable us to move beyond the emotional nature of the current debate.
Many of the opponents of changing the current schedule argue that they want to preserve their ability to have four extra hours per week of family time with their kindergarteners. This extra family time is only possible for those with the means to decide to have at least one parent at home in the afternoon instead of at work. This is not possible for families that have have two parents working full time or a single parent working full time.
In many cases, these families take advantage of the Westport Family Y's afternoon program for children. While this program is an invaluable service to the community, it does not offer an integrated curriculum with the public schools.
An alternative could be offered to those families who feel they need the extra four hours of family time during weekdays -- an option to pick-up their kindergarteners early on Mondays and Fridays. This approach was offered in Ridgefield, which successfully made the move to full-day kindergarten in 2010, and it is being offered in Wilton as part of that town's recent decision. In this way, families like ours who prefer to provide our children with a fully integrated approach to developmentally appropriate curriculum, including play and exploration time, can benefit from the five full days the Westport administration is proposing. The administration's proposal is fully supported by educational research. Here are some key points in support of their proposal:
1) More time for teachers to provide a relaxed, developmentally appropriate daily learning experience, with time for children to focus on activities, absorb and reflect on those activities, and transition between activities.
2) Additional time and support for curriculum changes necessitated by the adoption of the new Common Core Standards for elementary education.
3) A consistent/predictable daily structure with less confusion about long day or short day.
4) Equity for working parents who are already paying for this teacher time yet need to enroll their children in after school programs to fill the gap
5) A $50,000 cost savings by eliminating the additional bus route on the short days.
We encourage the Board of Education to approve the administration's proposal but offer an option of early pick-up on Mondays and Fridays. We urge those residents who agree to sign the petition in support of the administration's proposal at the following web address: