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Full-Day kindergarten approved in Bethlehem

The Bethlehem Central School District board of education has approved a move from half-day to full-day kindergarten by a vote of 6-to-1.

The decision comes after three meetings on the matter and plenty of discussion among the board, staff, and parents in the community.

I want to compliment the people who came forward to assist the board in making this decision, said school board president Stuart Lyman, who voted in favor of the move.

Only board member Richard Svenson, who did not run for re-election and who will leave the board at the end of the month, voted against the change. Svenson said he was on the board more than nine years ago when a decision was made to stay with a half-day program and build an Early Learning Center for only kindergarten students at Slingerlands Elementary School.

"The scores in this district are pretty good, and we have addressed the needs of children," Svenson said.

The cost of the move to a full day kindergarten program was another of Svenson's concerns.

The school board also voted 5-to-2 in favor of returning kindergarten students to their home schools instead of housing all of the students in Slingerlands and in the new Eagle Elementary School.

Board members Stuart Lyman and Richard Svenson each voted to keep kindergarten students in two schools.

Parents who spoke at the meeting spoke both in favor of full-day kindergarten and returning children back to the six elementary schools.

"If you can't have the program in one central location I would bring kids back to all six schools," said parent Matt Downey.

A public referendum vote is scheduled this fall to allow $3.5 million dollars of state EXCEL aid to be used to offset the cost of implementing full day kindergarten.

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