Johnstown Independent

Northridge eyes all-day, everyday kindergarten

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They have the space, the bus service, probably the means and definitely the motivation, so why not?

Northridge Local Schools treasurer Britt Lewis said his district is moving forward with plans for all-day, everyday kindergarten classes, possibly by next school year. The subject came up during a Northridge school board workshop Feb. 4.

"It's a decision we made not knowing it'll be fully funded," he said.

Lewis said that through financial calculations, expanding kindergarten is not only feasible, but also, based on teacher retirements, it could be a cost advantage.

Lewis said Northridge kindergartners attend full days like other district students, but they alternate between attending two and three days per week. They don't attend half days five days per week like some other districts. So the bus transportation already is in place. He said the district also has enough classroom space to accommodate an expanded kindergarten schedule.

The district would need two more teachers to handle the change, he said, but other teachers are retiring.

"Technically, there's no additional cost," Lewis said. "Considering retirements, there's actually a net gain."

He said teachers the district currently employs would have the first option to teach full-time kindergarten.

Board president Doug Hart said the main reason for expanding kindergarten now is to ensure students are ready for the third-grade reading guarantee, which is a new state mandate requiring third-graders to read at grade level or be held back until they are able.

"Kids are going to be penalized by being held back," he said.

Hart said it's extraordinarily important that Northridge students are not held back and that all-day, everyday kindergarten would help significantly.

Lewis said he believes all-day, everyday kindergarten also has public support.

"People have been wanting this for some time," he said.

Lewis said the district is trying to bring a preschool program into the primary building.

Hart said the board also discussed security during the workshop, particularly in the wake of a gunman fatally shooting 20 children and six adults and wounding two adults at Newtown, Conn.'s, Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.

"Priority 1 is security," Hart said. "You have to do it."

Lewis said the district is looking at all options for having additional security all day at each building, details weren't ready to be released. He said the district recently upgraded lock systems on building doors, and on Feb. 15 a "live shooter lockdown" simulation at the high school will be held, complete with a SWAT team. Lewis said students would not be present during the simulation.

"Teachers will do what they would do if there were a live shooter in the building," he said. "We're staying proactive."

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