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Update: Northern OKs full-day kindergarten

Students in Carly Kleckner’s kindergarten class at Dillsburg Elementary are working with "like" tangrams and mental blocks. The students are practicing fine motor skills and sight word recognition as well as learning to take turns and think critically. Pictured are, from left, Ryder Yost, Edward Griffith, Lochlan Fitzgerald and Lucas Soliz.

Northern York County school board members voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a full-day kindergarten program in the district next year.

The board this past week discussed moving forward with the proposal based on research touting the academic and social emotional benefits of an extended day. Most were in favor of the idea, but the 2020-21 budget was a concern.

“I fully support it, but financially, I want to make it work,” said board member Gregory Hlatky.

Board member Kevin Barnett was absent for the vote Tuesday.

Superintendent Eric Eshbach said the more than $200,000 price tag should not cause a tax increase, but the board will have to find space for it in the budget next year — especially given that the 2019-20 budget is already tight.

Full-day kindergarten was first proposed for the district late last year. Northern is one of only three districts in the county, along with Red Lion Area and West Shore, that still maintain half-day programs.

More:Full-day kindergarten could be on horizon for Northern York

A committee of Northern early childhood administrators and teachers who researched full-day kindergarten, including site visits to nearby districts, presented its findings with administration’s recommendations Feb. 18.

The recommendation were to add three classrooms — meaning three new teachers and aides, extra specialist time and supplies — for an estimated $322,775.

The district will see a savings of about $118,000 from no longer needing midday bus runs, meaning a net cost of about $204,000 for the program in the 2020-21 school year.

Eastern will  lose the state's 50% reimbursement of this year's midday run costs — which is divided between the next two budgets — after 2021-22.

“I tried to bake everything into this pie,” Eshbach said, noting that he used top salary schedules for the estimates, so actual costs will probably come in lower.

Students in Carly Kleckner’s kindergarten class at Dillsburg Elementary are working with "like" tangrams and mental blocks. The students are practicing fine motor skills and sight word recognition as well as learning to take turns and think critically. Pictured are, from left, Allison Crist, Brenden Robel, Pat Coyne and Hayden Hennessey.

More:West York hires subs to address ballooning kindergarten class size

Board member Elisabeth McLean said the program would work well with the district’s mental health focus and would provide more opportunities for math — which is becoming more of a predictor of high school graduation.

“This would do nothing but help our kids” she said, noting in some ways, one can't put a price on that.

Board President Ken Sechrist asked about the “third grade fade-out,” meaning that by third grade students who attended half-day kindergarten are on the same level as those who attended full-day classes.

Dillsburg Elementary welcomed its fall kindergarten students for a school preview on May 5. Pictured, Ryder Miller and other pre-kindergartners practiced going through the lunch line for a pizza meal.

Eshbach said he saw it when he brought full-day kindergarten to his previous district more than 20 years ago. The solution, he said, is more communication with next-year teachers about what was taught in kindergarten.

The research on the fade-out is also referring to academics, not social emotional gains, he said.

“We have a huge opportunity to set the trend,” Sechrist said, noting that he’s even more excited about what can happen down the road.

Parents not sold on full-day kindergarten would have the flexibility to have students come for a half day. Most of the academic instruction occurs in the morning, Eshbach said.

It would be up to the board whether to keep this as a permanent option or just allow it for a transitional year, he said.

More:Northern York superintendent accepts new post, will resign at year's end