Jul 25, 2013

All-day kindergarten in Woonsocket

STATE HOUSE – Kindergartners in Woonsocket will attend school all day this year, subject to School Committee approval, thanks to money included in the 2014 state budget to fund full-day kindergarten in the city.

Category: News Room
Posted by: Craig

STATE HOUSE – Kindergartners in Woonsocket will attend school all day this year, subject to School Committee approval, thanks to money included in the 2014 state budget to fund full-day kindergarten in the city.

Woonsocket’s legislative delegation announced today that $500,000 was included in the budget to allow the city to hire the necessary staff to provide full-day instruction to all of the more-than 500 kindergartners entering city schools in the fall. The expansion would require the approval of the School Committee.

The city’s legislators, who advocated for the funding all year, said full-day kindergarten is advantageous for local families, whose children will benefit from a stronger start to their education and whose parents will be better enabled to work without having to arrange and pay for day care for half the day for their kindergartners.

“First and foremost, all-day kindergarten is a much-needed academic boost for our city’s children. Studies have shown that full-day kindergarten does a much better job of closing the achievement gap for children than half-day programs do. But it also helps their parents tremendously. It’s very difficult to work when your child needs to get to and from school within a just few hours each morning or afternoon. Half-day kindergartners also need day care for the other half of the day if their parents are working. All-day kindergarten eases logistic and financial pressures on families, and better enables parents to work,” said Rep. Lisa Baldelli Hunt (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket).

Said Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland), “There are so many incredible positives to having full-day kindergarten. This means a huge boost in instructional time for students, and many of our students desperately need that exposure. There are many children who are referred for additional services in first or second grade whose struggles aren’t actually related to a disability, but to being unprepared academically, socially and emotionally for school. Kindergarten is designed to give them that foundation, and doubling their time there can really help those students.”

Woonsocket offered full-day kindergarten in the past, but the program was cut back down to a half-day for the 2011-2012 school year in what was intended to be a money-saver for the district. According to Woonsocket Supt. Giovanna M. Donoyan, who was not superintendent when that cut was made in 2010, eliminating full-day kindergarten did not result in local savings, because it came with a corresponding cut in state and federal funding.

But restoring the program will mean a reinstitution of funding the following year, since state education aid is calculated on enrollment figures that will reflect this year’s full-time kindergartners, instead of counting half-day students as half a student for enrollment purposes.

“Restoring full-day kindergarten will bring back much of the funding that we lost as a result of the cuts. Next year, our state aid will be increased because our kindergartners will be counted as full-day students under the school funding formula. This will also allow us to save money on busing, as we won’t need that extra mid-day bus run for kindergartners. To restart the program it was necessary to get this help from the state to cover the first-year expenses, and we’re very grateful we were able to do just that,” said Rep. Stephen M. Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket). 

Besides helping students, the educational benefits of full-day kindergarten could also help the school department save on special education and remedial services costs.

“If students aren’t prepared for first grade when they leave kindergarten, they’re going to cost more to educate in the following years because they are going to need special services. Full-day kindergarten has also been linked to a reduction in the number of children who have to repeat early elementary grades. Anything that helps students succeed in school is not only good for the children, but also good for our city,” said Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland). 

Superintendent Donoyan was overjoyed when she learned this week of the inclusion of the funding in the state budget, saying that at a time when the city is near bankruptcy and families are struggling with high unemployment, such a positive development is “a powerful ‘wow.’”

“This is about the most positive news we’ve had in quite a while…Our kids need this desperately,” she said, noting that Woonsocket has some children who come to kindergarten still in diapers or not knowing what a crayon is. She said that both school administrators and the teachers’ union have long agreed that restoration of full-day kindergarten should be a top priority for the district, but that funding has stood in the way.

Donoyan said she is very grateful to the city’s legislators for their advocacy and to the leadership of the General Assembly for finding a way to include the funding in the budget.

“Our legislators have been advocating relentlessly for this. I’m really honored and grateful that the state has listened and understood our students’ needs and the impact of early education. This is a very positive turn for education in Woonsocket,” she said.

Said Representative Baldelli Hunt, “We are so relieved and proud to have been able to restore this program. This success demonstrates how the local delegation has been able to work effectively as a team. We understand the importance of working together to achieve positive outcomes for our community.”