What was the biggest topic of the spring and the Washington Township School district’s budget planning is now the central focus of the upcoming school year.
For the first time in the district’s history, a full day kindergarten program is being implemented in the three elementary schools, expanding on the former two-session, morning and afternoon structure previously used.
“The excitement levels among (kindergarten) teachers is high,” said Superintendent Jeff Mohre.
Since the decision was made in the spring to implement the program, teachers have been trained accordingly, Mohre said, and curriculum has expanded, specifically in the area of the literacy program across the district.
The B.A. Cucinella School will have four kindergarten classes; Kossmann will have three; and Old Farmers Road School will have two, Mohre said.
Full day kindergarten was only possible because the physical classroom availability was realized as the district’s enrollment has dropped in recent years, Mohre said during his budget presentation, and is projected to drop for a few more years to come.
Total enrollment one week before the start of classes was 169 for the grade level. The district, as a whole, is expecting 2,328 students to walk through the halls on Monday, a drop of approximately 140 students from last year, Mohre said.
The number of teachers at the grade level increased from six to nine in the district, but there will be less aides assisting in the kindergarten classes, Mohre said.
Some of the aides have retired and others are being shifted to different parts of the district, Mohre said. The move isn’t without its reasons, however.
“During our research and class observations we learned that students who spend more time in the classroom grow a quicker independency,” Mohre said.
Overall, Mohre said, the district is saving money on implementing the program, as the loss of mid-day bus transportation for the kindergarten students – which was approximated at some $90,000 – was eliminated.
The total school day will last more than six hours, as opposed to 2.5 hours per morning or afternoon session.