The first day of kindergarten is a milestone moment in a child’s education and more 5-year-olds in the state are headed to full-day kindergarten this year than ever before.
According to the state Department of Education, 74 percent of Connecticut kindergartners go to full-day sessions.
Jan Giudice, of Newington, can’t say enough positive things about how her children thrived in full-day kindergarten.
Her sons, Collin, 9, and Tyler, 6, are part of the growing trend nationally and in Connecticut, where an increasing number of students live in towns that have switched from half to full-day.
“I couldn't believe from the beginning of kindergarten to the end of the year, how much they could read and write, when they went in barely doing any of that,” she said.
Giudice describes her children as “a little more advanced academically but also socially advanced” because of full-day kindergarten.
Southington is one of the towns making the switch to full-day kindergarten this upcoming school year.
“We have compacted way too much into a very shortened day,” Superintendent Joseph Erardi said.
The town has hired an additional 14 teachers, costing an additional $400,000. Unlike many districts, Southington will pay for the increase without using state grants.
Teachers worked throughout the summer to develop the full-day curriculum, which includes increased individual learning time that would not be possible during half-day. They also integrated reading and math into activities, including playtime and field trips.
“Kindergarten children who come for two and a half hours don't have time to develop relationships because once they're in school for that short length of time, it is go-go-go,” said Sally Kamerbeek, principal at the Hatton School in Southington.
But not everybody agrees that full-day kindergarten is all that it's cracked up to be.
A recent Duke University study found that the academic benefits of full-day kindergarten disappeared in some students by the third grade.
Some who oppose the full-day option say it is taxpayer-subsidized babysitting. And some parents either worry that their children aren’t ready to be away for a full day or said they would prefer to have more time to develop their child’s learning at home.
In Southington, teachers are working with those who don’t want their children to participate in full-day kindergarten to help create a specialized program for their child.
“Children do deserve to have that choice. Families do deserve to have that choice. And we've allowed that,” said Karen Smith, assistant superintendent in Southington.
But Southington is hoping most of its more than 400 incoming kindergarteners have an experience more like Collin and Tyler’s when they come to class on August 29.
“They love it,” Giudice said.