Board of Education (BOE) member Kathy Yolish is optimistic that full-day kindergarten will soon become a reality in Shelton. \u201cThis is our year \u2014 I truly hope for that,\u201d Yolish told about 150 people at a full-day K public informational session on Feb. 12. Yolish, a retired Shelton teacher, chairs a BOE ad hoc committee that has been looking into full-day kindergarten for almost a year, She said attendance at the ad hoc committee\u2019s meetings grew by so much they had to be moved to a larger venue. The BOE has included funding for full-day K in its 2014-15 funding request, which now becomes part of the city\u2019s process of approving an overall budget. The cost of offering full-day K The informational meeting \u2014 the first of two \u2014 was designed to promote the educational benefits of offering a full-day kindergarten program in the next school year, which would cost about $950,000 in the first year. Of that amount, the BOE would provide about $370,000 from its operating budget (that figure has been revised down from $450,000 by the BOE, due to what officials said was an earlier calculation error).\u00a0The remaining amount would be covered by reallocating teachers from other elementary grades and by capital bonding on the city side of government. \u201cWe tried hard to hold down costs,\u201d School Supt. Freeman Burr said. Most of the people at last week\u2019s informational meeting were parents of young children. The meeting included a PowerPoint presentation entitled \u201cWhy Full Day K? It Saves Money!\u201d Also, Burr, Yolish, BOE Chairman Mark Holden, and other school district staff spoke and answered questions. Less remedial help later on According to the PowerPoint presentation, full-day K reduces the need for future remedial work with students, especially in grades one to three, and means fewer kids have to repeat grades. It also should lead to lower drop-out rates at the high school level. It offers academic, physical, social, and emotional benefits for youngsters. A full-day program provides 385 minutes daily compared to 175 minutes with a half-day program. \u201cThe gift of time we can give to our children allows for more learning,\u201d said Kristen Santilli, BOE supervisor of literacy assessment and professional learning. The presentation stated that 110 of the state\u2019s 169 school districts now offer full-day K, including 22 of 23 towns in Fairfield County. \u201cWhat our kids are expected to do in the 21st Century,\u201d Burr said, \u201crequires a full-day kindergarten.\u201d Holden said he supports full-day K both \u201cas a fiscal conservative and a strong proponent of the best education we can provide.\u201d Mayoral pledge? Lori McKeon, a parent and ad hoc committee member, said Mayor Mark Lauretti told her during a one-on-one meeting that he was willing to provide 60% of the needed funding for full-day K, or about $530,000. But McKeon said Lauretti wanted the funds kept on the city side of the budget to guarantee that it would be spent on full-day kindergarten and not another educational expense. \u201cMr. Holden, you might have the money,\u201d said McKeon, who said she planned to hold the mayor accountable to his promise. In reaction, Holden and Burr pointed out that state law on school funding probably doesn\u2019t allow such an approach. \u201cWe can\u2019t do that,\u201d said Holden, who still thought Lauretti\u2019s offer might represent progress. \u201cI think this is wonderful news. \u2026 We have to work things out,\u201d Holden said. Burr said \u201cno one but the BOE can decide how to spend its budget,\u201d based on law, but made an offer of his own. The superintendent said if the city provides the needed money for full-day K in next year\u2019s budget and it\u2019s not spent appropriately, the city can \u201ctake it way from us\u201d the following year. Separate line item in BOE budget? Burr was worried about the BOE\u2019s need to meet certain rising costs, such as contracted employee salary increases, benefits and transportation. \u201cWhat happens if the mayor says I\u2019ll give you money for full-day kindergarten, but you have to cut elsewhere?\u201d he asked. That prospect also worried BOE Secretary Arlene Liscinsky. \u201cYou can\u2019t give us with one and take away with the other,\u201d Liscinsky said. Yolish suggested perhaps the BOE could have a separate line item in its budget for full-day K to provide transparency for city officials. \u201cThat,\u201d Holden said, \u201csounds like something that could be done. If that\u2019s acceptable for the mayor, it should work for us.\u201d Burr said the problem is \u201ctrust,\u201d with Lauretti and some city officials still upset about a half-million dollars provided for technology in 1998 \u2014 before Burr\u2019s arrival in Shelton \u2014 that instead was spent on other items. The BOE has \u201cbeen extremely fiscally responsible\u201d during his four-year tenure, Burr said. Shelton has one of the lowest per-pupil spending figures in the state, with improving student achievement, he said. Audience questions One mother in the audience asked if a half-day K option would still be offered, pointing out some parents may prefer this schedule for their children. School officials said it would not, based on the experience of other towns. They said students who initially stayed with the half-day option in other towns soon wanted to attend full-time, and offering both options means students would be at different levels when they reach first grade. It also increases transportation costs. But officials said they would be flexible and try to work with parents at first, especially if there are \u201cspecial circumstances.\u201d Parents need to plan for the fall One parent asked when it would be known if full-day K would be offered in the next school year, noting residents need to know for planning purposes. Officials said the answer should come sometime in May, based on the city budget process. If residents decide to contact city elected officials to urge support for full-day kindergarten, Holden recommended they act \u201cfriendly\u201d and \u201creasonable\u201d to get the best results.