Shelton parents urge aldermen to fund full-day kindergarten

A group of Shelton parents is urging the Board of Aldermen to provide adequate funding in the new budget to implement full-day kindergarten this fall.

Speaking at the most recent aldermanic meeting, they said the city can afford a full-day program and that the current half-day program puts Shelton youngsters at a disadvantage compared to young students in most nearby towns.

Linda Cascella, who has two young children, said children are “actually only being educated two hours a day” with a half-day program because of time for snacks, bathroom breaks, dismissal preparation, and other activities.

She said a longer school day would have “a huge impact” on kindergartners, and that the city has the needed funds because of its large budget surplus.

Making a point with candy bars

Cascella, who works for as a speech language pathologist for the school system, brought along some edible props to make a point — presenting each alderman with a 100 Grand candy bar to symbolize the need for more funding.

“Full-day kindergarten will bring grand educational success to the city of Shelton,” she printed on the candy bar wrappers.

And she held up a PayDay candy bar for Mayor Mark Lauretti — who was not at the meeting — because she said full-day K would bring “a huge payday” for the city’s children.

Status of next year's budget

About two dozen full-day K supporters — most of them parents of young children — showed up at the meeting. Six of them addressed the aldermen during the public speaking portion.

The proposed new budget, which takes effect on July 1, now is in front of the Board of Apportionment and Taxation. After that board acts on the proposal late this month, it will go to the aldermen for final passage.

Board of Education (BOE) officials have requested a budget increase of $3.5 million, or 5.4%, and say they need an increase of at least $2.75 million, or 4.2%, to start full-day K and cover other higher costs.

Lauretti has recommended an increase in school spending of $2 million, or 3%. He has said education expenses can’t continue to escalate a lot more than the city’s non-school expenses, and that school officials should be able to figure out how to start full-day K with $2 million in new funds.

‘A good jump start’

Molly Oestreich, a parent, said full-day K is needed to prevent students from falling behind at a young age.

Oestreich said this is especially important with the new Common Core standards being adopted by all school systems. “We need to help them have a good jump start,” she said.

She is worried Shelton youngsters won’t do as well as kids from towns with full-day K, noting they now receive four fewer hours of learning a day than many of their out-of-town counterparts.

“It’s evident here that parents want full-day kindergarten and our [school] administrators want full-day kindergarten,” Oestreich said. “I’m just not sure why our lawmakers don’t.”

Nicole Bunaskavich, who has four children, said the new Common Core system “is designed for a full day.” She said “it’s not fair” to expect children to learn everything in just a half-day.

“The need is there and the money is there,” Bunaskavich said.

Working together

Lori McKeon, a parent, said the city can afford to both start full-day K and eliminate pay-to-participate fees for youngsters involved in extracurricular activities such as clubs and team sports.

She expressed appreciation to the aldermen for paying for school-related items outside the education budget, such as Promethean boards in classrooms, and said it’s time for school and city officials to get over past disagreements.

“I certainly hope we can work together,” McKeon said.

John Figoras of Shelton said he was “appalled” that Shelton didn’t offer full-day K when most others towns in the state do. He said the lack of such a program impacts single mothers in particular.

“I feel very, very bad for our children. … Let’s give them every chance we can,” said Figoras, who described the current tax burden in Shelton as being “very reasonable” compared to that of other nearby communities.

Lengthening the day

Martha Parkins, who has two young children and is a Shelton first grade teacher, said she can see the ramifications of the current half-day program with her students. She called it “important” to lengthen kindergarten to a full day.

John F. Anglace Jr., aldermanic president, thanked the speakers for presenting their views.

“Keep up the hard work on your behalf,” said Anglace, who has expressed some reservations about starting a full-day program in the past.