Full day kindergarten for all Norwell students
Dear Superintendent Keegan and Norwell School Committee Members,
I am writing as a concerned parent of a child currently enrolled in the public school system in Norwell. My son attended half day kindergarten at Cole Elementary School last year, and has since entered first grade. My family moved to Norwell around three years ago, one of the main deciding factors for choosing this community was its reputation for an excellent school system. However, I was dismayed to learn that Norwell is one of the few towns on the South Shore, who continues to have a lottery system for full-day kindergarten. New friends and neighbors said not to worry about it, in a few years (when my son will be eligible), there will be full-day kindergarten. The “pilot full-day program” had been a success. I was disheartened to hear that the school committee had voted it down the year my son was to attend kindergarten, citing space considerations. I still held out hope, the lottery still had not happened. But again, we did not get in, we were almost last on the waiting list. I accepted our fate, and decided to make peace with half-day kindergarten.
Unfortunately, I saw a negative change in my son’s love for learning. He loved preschool. He was excited to attend every day. He would often recite what he had learned throughout the day and asked when he could go back. During his kindergarten year, there were many complaints. He viewed it as hard work or his job. I think this may have negatively affected his perception of school for the future years, which to me is the opposite of what kindergarten should be. Now, to be clear, I think his teacher did an excellent job with the amount of time that she had to work with. There is just not enough time in the half day to cover the curriculum mandated by the state. Young bodies and minds need a break during the day for recess and snack, and with half-day kindergarten this is impossible.
This is also an issue of education inequality. For example, there are 3 children of the same age in my neighborhood, 2 were in half day and 1 in full-day. There were daily comparisons of full-day versus half-day curriculum, and full-day is always coming out on top. Now as the program has grown there are families, who have had older children in the full-day kindergarten or vice versa, and now a younger sibling has been stuck in the half day program or lucky enough to ‘win’ the lottery for full-day. Parents are struggling to explain to their children why one child is able to go to full-day and another only is able to attend half-day, a difficult task for these parents.
As a town with such a strong reputation for high-quality education, I cannot understand why we are one of the last communities in this area to have full-day kindergarten. Hingham, Hanover, Scituate, Cohasset, and Rockland, all of our neighboring communities, have full-day kindergarten available to all students. While, some parents see full-day kindergarten as a form of childcare, I see it as huge academic advantage to those students who have been fortunate enough to attend this type of program. Most importantly, academic research strongly supports full-day kindergarten over half day programs. I do not think it is necessary to cite this research here, as educators, I am sure that you are aware of the current literature listing the advantages of a full-day kindergarten program over half day.
Now, I know I am not the only resident who has this opinion (please see attached petition). Many young families feel strongly that we need to make this issue a priority in our education budget. Please consider this viewpoint in your next discussion of the kindergarten curriculum. Thank you for time and consideration.