VTPS approves feasibility study regarding full-day kindergarten

Study will investigate class sizes, facility resources and more

Voorhees Middle School teacher Christine Blizzard-Wrobel is awarded a $2,000 grant by Doug Peters, regional vice president for VOYA Financial, towards STEM initiatives in her classrooms.

The Voorhees Township Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a contract for a feasibility study on the district’s ability to accommodate full-day kindergarten and full-day preschool programs.

As requested by the board, Superintendent of Schools David Gentile gave a presentation during the monthly meeting prior to the vote in order to inform the public that the district is investigating the potential benefits of such programs.

Gentile said he personally believes the switch from half day to full day would be beneficial for district students, as well as a much-needed switch regardless.

“I think a full-day kindergarten program would be very beneficial for this community,” Gentile said. “In the state of New Jersey, over 90 percent of the school districts have a full-day kindergarten program, so we’re in a bit of a minority group that I don’t believe we want to be in.”

According to Gentile, the feasibility study will review the capacity of all school district facilities to investigate the potential of a full-day kindergarten program without additional construction. The study will also explore what the current maximum capacity is for each building and identify any areas that require attention within the district. Amongst other things, it will also ascertain the possible need for redistricting and the ability of Voorhees Middle School to possibly hold fifth-grade students.

As for how full-day kindergarten would best benefit students, Gentile noted information from the state Department of Education that shows children in a full-day program show increased school readiness, better social and emotional well-being and improved school attendance, while costs for retention and remediation  in early grade levels decreases.

Gentile reminded the public that the feasibility study will review the possibility of changes in the future, and that nothing regarding redistricting, a move to full-day kindergarten or other significant changes, were approved through the study. As part of the study, the district will also seek to make sure any potential costs to the taxpayer for a future full-day kindergarten program will be minimal.

“If we were to do a full-day kindergarten, we want to explore that in a way that it would have a minimal impact financially to the taxpayers,” Gentile said. “This first step is simply going to allow us to explore what that impact would be. Then we’ll have the information to bring back to the board, and the board on behalf of the public … can consider if it’s an investment that is something that this community wants. But this does not tonight lock the board or the community into [anything] about doing this.”

In other news:

  • Special Education teacher Karen Jacobs was honored with an award for 25 years of service with Voorhees Township Public Schools.
  • STEM teacher Christine Blizzard-Wrobel received a $2,000 grant from the VOYA Financial company toward her “Integrated STEM” course. The class allows students to identify problems important to them and develop a solution using the principles of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and the engineering design process.
  • The board approved a transfer of funds in the amount of $43,447.31 from Capital Reserve to purchase new flooring for four classrooms in the ‘D’ wing at Voorhees Middle School. The project is expected to be completed over the winter break.