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308 Superintendent Continues Push to Move Kindergartners to Home Schools

Oct 16, 2015 05:49AM ● By Steven Jack

School District 308 Superintendent Matthew Wendt said it's his hope to transition all-day kindergarteners out of the East View Kindergarten Center by the 2017-18 school year.

Oswego School District 308 Superintendent Matthew Wendt again this week advocated placing all district full-day kindergarteners in their home schools.

Wendt told the board at their Tuesday night meeting it’s his hope to accomplish the goal by the 2017-18 school year or even the year following an upcoming district-wide school boundary reconfiguration. The effort to redraw district boundaries is likely to begin next summer or fall, and new boundaries could be in place for the start of the 2017-18 school year.  

“I am 100 percent convinced that students who attend all-day kindergarten are better prepared to meet the standards and expectations of first grade,” said Wendt, who hopes to put the measure to a vote at the board's November meeting. 

According to Wendt, the benefits of moving students from the East View Kindergarten Center to home schools include putting an end to splitting members of the same family between multiple schools, saving the district up to $550,000 per year in transportation and administrative costs with the closure of East View, creating a better culture between elementary school staff and lessening the transition that kindergarteners currently go through when moving from East View to their home school for first grade. 

Currently about 90 percent of all district kindergartners are enrolled in the full-day program either at East View or one of a few elementary schools that have the classrooms. Full-day kindergarten is not mandated by the state of Illinois, and the district would continue to offer a half-day option. However, it's possible even more parents will choose full-day if it's available at their child's home school.

With the move, Wendt said he also believes it’s time for the district to eliminate the $250 fee it charges full-day kindergarten parents. The fee does little to cover the actual cost of educating the students, and many parents never pay it, he said.

The district collects about $170,000 annually from the fee, but the state pays the district the same amount in general aid for each full-day kindergartener as it does every other elementary school student. 

“There is absolutely no reason to assess parents the $250 fee for the full-day concept,” Wendt said. 

Board Member Greg O’Neil has previously stated his opposition to moving kindergartners to their home schools, saying it will cause capacity issues and end up costing taxpayers more. He restated his position Tuesday night, saying closing East View will force the district to eventually build another elementary school sooner than necessary. 

“You’re shutting down a $20 million facility, and you’re not including that in your costs,” O’Neil said. “… Reducing capacity across the district is a cost that will be borne by the taxpayers of this community when a new elementary school has to be built years before its time.”

Wendt argued the elementary schools have room for three times the amount of the 550 students that currently attend East View. However, boundary lines must be redrawn to avoid capacity issues, Wendt said.

Board member Lauri Doyle, who sits on the board’s Facilities Committee, said the group also has discussed the possibility of eventually transitioning East View back to a K-5 school when more elementary space is needed. 

O’Neil, who previously said he believes that some parents treat full-day kindergarten as publicly subsidized day-care, also argued there’s little evidence to support the notion full-day is any better for students than half-day.

Wendt disagreed. 

“We really do believe the kids will be better served,” he said. “I understand there is a financial component, but my chief responsibility also must include academic preparation."