Full-day kindergarten survey results presented by Harrison Township School District at Oct.

Full-day kindergarten survey results presented by Harrison Township School District at Oct. 23 meeting

Approximately 85 percent of the 275 survey respondents were in favor of expanding the kindergarten program

Results of a full-day kindergarten survey released at last week’s Harrison Township School District Board of Education meeting indicated strong support for a program. The purpose of the survey was to gather information and feedback from parents who would be directly impacted if the district were to implement a full-day kindergarten program.

According to Superintendent Missy Peretti, the survey targeted community members who either have a child younger than 5 years old, or who plan to have a school-aged child within the next seven years who would be entering kindergarten in the Harrison Township School District. Of the 275 respondents, Peretti said, about 95 percent have a child in the school district at this time.

When asked if parents would want their child to participate in a full-day kindergarten program in Harrison Township, Peretti said 85 percent of those who responded said “yes.” About 85 percent of respondents also agreed full-day kindergarten would prepare their child for school academically, as well as socially. Only 13 percent of survey-takers said kindergarten should not be extended because it would require children to be away from home for too long.

According to Peretti, about 31 percent of respondents gave additional comments at the end of the survey, and were “passionate” in their support for the kindergarten expansion.

“With the vast majority, if not all, of our surrounding districts now offering full-day kindergarten, they were very passionate about the thought that Harrison Township, to remain a leader in education, should also offer it to our residents,” Peretti said.

According to Peretti, Harrison Township and Monroe Township are the only districts within Gloucester County that still have half-day kindergarten programs.

If the board of education and administration were to implement full-day kindergarten in the next year, Peretti said, they would need to find creative ways to keep the cost within the 2 percent budget cap, which includes any increases in salary and health benefits as well.

“We would be looking at creative ways to implement a full-day kindergarten program utilizing most of the resources we currently have,” Peretti said.

With kindergarten classes continuing to decrease at a steady rate from year to year, with a total of approximately 160 kindergarten students this year throughout 10 classes, Peretti said the board has the opportunity to take advantage of the current district population.

“It’s obviously going to be a difficult implementation, but with our class sizes as they are now, which are becoming the lowest that I’ve seen, and lower than they’ve been well before I got here, this may be a good opportunity for the board to utilize this current district size,” Peretti said.

The board would need to look into reallocating teaching staff and building capacity throughout the district to implement full-day kindergarten, Peretti said.

Further discussions will be taking place by the board with the curriculum and finance committees to determine if the expansion would be something to implement in the 2018–19 school year, or coming years.

In other news:

• Peretti presented the board with the 2016–17 school year PARCC results for both English language arts and mathematics. Although the district saw growth specifically in the fourth-grade level, third grade saw a significant decline.

According to Peretti, fourth grade saw an increase of six points in ELA and eight points in mathematics, while third grade saw a decrease in three points for ELA and seven points in mathematics.

“Our youngest learners that are tested are students who are not familiar with those questions they see on the PARCC,” Peretti said. “Our goal this school year is to see that students get more practice with that type of question before they even have the PARCC in front of them.”

Peretti said the district has already implemented strategies through curriculum work to help prepare the students for questions seen on the PARCC, and is looking at literature studies that will provide students the practice for skills necessary to see more success in the ELA area.

• Peretti reported an update on the district Violence and Vandalism Report for the 2016–17 school year.

According to Peretti, only one new incident had occurred since her previous report, involving multiple instances of intimidation in electronic communication from students at Pleasant Valley School from February to May.

“This was an ongoing issue that included various investigations through the district level, administration and utilized resources with the Harrison Township Police Department to ensure it was responded to appropriately,” Peretti said.