Board eyes all-day K

Bethlehem school district residents may go to the polls a second time in 2007 to vote on a $3.6 million capital construction project to fund a full-day kindergarten program.

The potential fall referendum is needed to capture EXCEL funding available to pay for the cost of six to eight classrooms needed at Eagle Elementary school, being built on Van Dyke Road, across the street from the high school. EXCEL stands for Expanding Our Children's Education and Learning, and funds for the program are included in the state budget.

Why full-day kindergarten is considered beneficial and how to fund the move from half-day to full-day classes were the main topics discussed at the Wednesday, May 30, meeting of the school board.

Research indicated that full-day kindergarten programs are more advantageous than half-day kindergarten, and there is money to make it happen, said Assistant Superintendent Michael Tebbano.

A study presented by district officials to the school board indicates it would cost $852,000 to staff a full-day kindergarten program in Bethlehem. That figure includes 13 new teachers, five aides and a school nurse. The full report is posted on the district Web site at bcsd.k12.ny.us.

Administrators said school enrollment is expected to increase with a full-day kindergarten program, and state aid would fund the entire amount for the 2008-2009 school year. The expected enrollment boost would come from students currently enrolled in private schools, which traditionally have offered full-day kindergarten programs.

"Obviously, there are additional expenditures, but on the other hand, there are some savings in program services," said Superintendent Les Loomis, who said the district would realize $226,000 in cost savings in transportation and special education costs.

The school board will be taking up the full-day kindergarten topic at the next two meetings on Wednesday, June 6 and Wednesday, June 20, and is expected to arrive at a decision at the end of June before two new school board candidates, Lisa Allendorph and Diane Giacone Stever, assume their seats on the board.

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