Cherry Hill BOE interested in full-day kindergarten, but wants to evaluate all options

A number of board members said they want to receive more information from school administrations on the pros and cons of implementing various full-day kindergarten models.

A number of Cherry Hill Board of Education members expressed their support for adding full-day kindergarten.

However, the board also felt it needed more information on the various ways the district could potentially implement a program.

Full-day kindergarten was a big discussion topic during the board’s meeting last week. School administrators talked about the ways the district could implement a full-day kindergarten program. While the board seemed interested in bringing full-day kindergarten to the township, it also felt a lot more information was needed before it could move forward.

Full-day kindergarten has been a big discussion item since the school district conducted its Cherry Hill Public Schools 2020: A Clear Vision for the Future survey last school year. Superintendent Joe Meloche said full-day kindergarten appeared on more surveys than any other item.

Over the past few months, district officials, board members and the community have engaged in a discussion about full-day kindergarten. Meloche has stated multiple times the district cannot implement full-day kindergarten in all 12 elementary schools as they are currently structured.

The district discussed the concept of turning two of its existing elementary schools into kindergarten centers. However some members of the community expressed various concerns with the plan, speaking out during the board’s May meeting. District officials have discussed including facility improvements associated with the implementation of full-day kindergarten in the district’s planned referendum for 2018.

Director of Curriculum Farrah Mahan presented data on full-day kindergarten to the board. The data included the benefits of full-day kindergarten and how Cherry Hill’s kindergarten program compares to other districts across the state.

“Dr. Meloche and I have visited several local school districts in the area that offer full-day kindergarten,” Mahan said. “We’ve also spoken to several directors of curriculum who worked to implement full-day kindergarten in their districts. We addressed not only the pros, but also the cons of implementation.”

District officials also examined the recent implementation of full-day kindergarten at Washington Township Public Schools and Gloucester Township Public Schools. Mahan said Washington Township’s program hosts full-day kindergarten classes in some of its elementary schools, with other kids going to a kindergarten center. Gloucester Township’s kindergarten classes are hosted at all of the elementary schools.

Numerous board members, including board president Barry Dickinson, Carol Matlack, Eric Goodwin, Lisa Saidel, Ken Tomlinson, Kathy Judge and Jane Scarpellino, said they’re interested in bringing full-day kindergarten to the district, but agreed they want to evaluate the options available.

Saidel talked about the importance of evaluating all of the viable options for the district.

“I want more info,” she said. “I want to see my options if we say we’re interested. How many different scenarios are we talking about?”

Dickinson said he was open to taking the next step in performing additional research on full-day kindergarten, but added the district needed to evaluate every aspect of the subject before developing concrete plans.

“I’m fully in support of it,” Dickinson said. “However, I want in made abundantly clear with the caveat that this is just stage one … We want to see the rest of the information to decide what the cost is associated with it. I don’t just mean dollar cost. I mean the cost to the community, potential re-districting, all of that.”

District officials are expected to provide more detailed data to the board in the near future. Meloche said an update on the district’s full-day kindergarten research would likely be ready for presentation at the board’s curriculum and instruction committee meeting in September.