Agencies, Parents Scramble Over Kindergarten

As Huntington schools turn to half-day sessions, families seek alternatives, help.

The impending move to cut kindergarten to half-day sessions in the Huntington school district has set off a scramble by parents and agencies looking for ways to provide alternatives.

School board meetings have been filled with discussions about cutting or protecting one program or another. But none has attracted the attention and emotion as the halving of the kindergarten program.

Those insisting that the board retain full-day kindergarten, or board members advocating the same, have regularly been met by applause. But as the board worked its way to the adoption of a budget of $109, 037,301 for next year, kindergarten faded as a priority for members trying to make all the numbers work.  Cutting kindergarten in half saves an estimated $680,000.

Despite an argument that children who don't go to kindergarten catch up academically by third grade with those who do, many parents remain unsatisfied.

Kindergarten is "fundamental for a kid's growth. It's an introduction to school--some have never been to school; for many it's their first school experience, first chance to socialize, to problem solve," said Jillian Franciscovich, who teaches kindergarten in another district.

"With increased class size, and decreasing support services, how are these kids supposed to catch up?" she said. "They've raised the bar on state standards. Kindergarten isn't play time, it's about how to read, write, do math; some are learning a different language. How is this to be accomplished in a half day? They're asking teachers to teach more in less time, to pull off a miracle."

Parents, meantime,  are complaining that even as they were registering their children for next fall's classes, no one in the district was telling them that the program would be halved. Others were angry that they don't know yet which half of the day their children would attend school, a problem for any parent trying to line up alternative care for their children.

And parents aren't the only ones dashing about trying to make arrangements. Both and the YMCA are trying to figure out ways to accommodate children and their working parents, well aware of the anxiety parents are feeling to find solutions. The alternatives aren't easy or big enough to help everyone.

"Clearly we're concerned as an agency that they've had a tough decision and while we understand, this will have an impact on working parents and children," Peggy Boyd, vice president for advocacy and initiative at Family Service League, said. FSL runs a universal pre-kindergarten program at St. Hugh's Church in Huntington Station.

And the , which runs a full-day program for 4-year-olds, is working on setting up a half-day program to accommodate those before or after their kindergarten sessions. But the numbers the Y could take will be relatively small, Eileen Knauer, executive director of the Huntington YMCA said.

"We're seeing parents scrambling right now. They're deeply concerned on what the impact is on their children and on child care," she said. "We're trying to implement a kindergarten enrichment program so parents have an alternative to child care."
The Bay Shore Y previously ran such a program in Massapequa, she said, until that school system went to full-day kindergarten.

"So we have the curriculum, the blueprint you'd need," she said. "It's just the space that's the issue. We believe we'll have room for two classes, with a maximum benefit of about 30 kids." She said the Y is looking for offsite space and partnerships, as well.

The cost, though, is another factor for parents to consider. "We would have to run the program with tuition, though scholarships would be available," she said. But "It would now fall on parents. There's a financial impact on the parents."

Norman Maxim, a father of four children in the district, also sees the cuts hurting some children more than others. "I'm not so much worried about my children, because they're going to go to college--we'll make sure they are ready," he said. But some children, he said, will need the extra classroom time. "The system has done a great job teaching the kids to read by kindergarten," he said. And "If they can keep all the children on track, fine. I'm concerned thought at half day, with a larger class size, it's going to be a challenge to get them to the same point" where kids are now."I don't think all hope is lost but the foundation is very important."

 "I don't think people are willing to pay more (in taxes) but they need to consider the advantage of investing in the schools and the big payoff to the town as a whole.  It's a great time to stand out as enhancing and probably catapulting housing values and the community as a whole as result of improvements to the school. Everybody's in the same financial straits but I hate to follow the model that everything has to be cut, cut, cut."

Patch has been speaking to parents around Huntington. Here is a sampling.

"I think it's terrible.  The expectations for kindergartners today are high; my kindergardener had to learn how to write full paragraphs.  With those expectations, there has to be a full day of class for them.  Not only that, but if they're not in school a full day, now I have to hire a babysitter and change my schedule for work.  It effects the children, and the parents.  They're in a good routine now going a full day, we shouldn't tamper with that."

-Laurie Osbourne

"Our kids need to be in school for a full day.  It's necessary for their learning.  Kindergarten prepares them socially for first grade and so on.  If we cut that short, they're not going to be as prepared as they should be.  Socially and educationally, I think its vital for our children to get all the education that is needed for their full development."

-Jennifer L.

"We have children in pre-school now, but they'll be in kindergarten before you know it.  We're opposed to these proposals to cut the school days in half, it doesn't serve the kids best interest.  They're at the age where they need to begin their experience of social interaction and the process of learning.  Why should we cut that time they need to develop those skills in half?"

-John and Dawn W.

"Kindergarten education is so important, it's the foundation for any child's learning experience.  I'd had to have to not only rearrange my lifestyle to adjust to my child being home all the hours he should be in school, but see that time of education taken away from them.  I hope that the board of education really thinks this over and hears our response."

-Denise G.

Susan Peters April 22, 2011 at 08:18 PM
The unitarian Universaslist Fellowship of Huntington on Brown's Road next to Southdown School has classroom space available for rent. Contact me Susan Peters speters@optonline.net
Elisabeth C. April 22, 2011 at 11:04 PM
Great idea Bill. It would make everyone happy.
Lisa April 23, 2011 at 03:39 AM
Agreed Bill! My son is in a FULL DAY pre-school now and learning a lot. I rather continue this and have the option of paying to have him in a FULL DAY Kindergarten class so he wouldn't have to transition to 2 places throughout the day. As working parents we will have no choice but to look for alternative care/education for the rest of the day anyway. Why not offer parents this option? We all know consistency/routine is key for 5 yr olds.
FB April 23, 2011 at 02:02 PM
This notion that full day kindergarten is an educational necessity is false. My children are in Northport, and while I would have loved to have the CHILDCARE so that I didn't have to send my son to scope and pay for it, my son is now thriving in the upper elementary grades! It all evens out. It is about CHILDCARE. Northport, Harborfields, and Kings Park children do very well academically and we all have half day kindergarten! I believe that 4 and 5 year old children NEED more playtime anyway!
carole April 23, 2011 at 04:25 PM
FB: Kings park is full day K, only northport and harborfields have half day. http://www.northshoreoflongisland.com/Articles-i-2010-09-02-85154.112114_Fullday_kindergarten_for_Kings_Park_schools.html
FB April 23, 2011 at 08:54 PM
My mistake...however it just went to full day. My point is that the children in those districts did very well, even with half day kindergarten.
JSC April 23, 2011 at 10:03 PM
Part of what you're not discussing here is the populations in the different districts. Huntington has a significant immigrant population that comes in uneducated and many times illiterate in their own language. This presents many challenges for the schools, especially when it comes to testing for the state's school report cards! These children really do need a full day of school. Also, the district has been geared to a full day for about 16 years now, so all the other grade levels have an expectation of children coming into their class with certain abilities. Now, all of a sudden, we're at half day K and obviously, 1st grade the following year, will have to lower it's expectations for many of the children. We need to remember that not all families can afford to send children to a daycare center for half a day. Those kids will not be as prepared as their wealthier counterparts. I'm just very disappointed that our board chose to cut the full day Kindergarten.
FB April 24, 2011 at 01:10 AM
JSC, I understand your point, but at what point do we as tax payers and legal citizens of this country do we say enough is enough. I would love to help everyone, but my paycheck does not allow for that. Also, the standards for 1st grade are not lower in Northport then in Huntington. The 1st grade teachers need to work a bit harder to bring the students up. Believe it or not, many kids are not developmentally prepared to read and write in kindergarten like we are asking them to do. As a side not...I taught kindergarten so I have first hand knowledge. As for the immigrant population, that's complicated. Should people be asked to pay 15K, 20K, 30K a year in property taxes to assure that these children have full day kindergarten? I don't believe anyone should have to pay those kinds of taxes for any reason.
JSC April 24, 2011 at 02:15 AM
Two points here... first is that the schools can do NOTHING about the problem of educating the children of illegal immigrants. We have to, under the law, educate any child living within our district borders. Second, while I mentioned the problem of educating these children, we cannot assume that all Hispanic children are illegal or that all immigrant children are poor! And while we're at it, there are most certainly plenty of poor white and black children who need a lot of services as well. So where are you drawing the line? You can't hold the districts responsible for this ever-growing issue, thus arguing about it over budget issues is pretty much moot! You may not like it, but it's here and until the laws of the US and NYS are changed, we have to deal with it.
carole April 24, 2011 at 02:37 AM
De facto segregation... Why cut full day K? There are many things that are not mandated, cutting K, the arts, etc... especially at the elementary and middle grades is just not educationally sound. I do not understand the rational in taking away the foundational programs just like I do not understand why full day K is not offered by all districts.
FB April 24, 2011 at 12:11 PM
JSC, you said "Huntington has a significant immigrant population that comes in uneducated and many times illiterate in their own language." I was just responding to your comment. Now let's be honest. Much of the Hispanic population in Huntington is illegal. Yes, you are correct...there is nothing we can do about it. By law we have to educate these children. That does not mean that we should be spending exorbitant amounts of money to do it . Bill has a great point, "What is right, ESL for an illegal French child or math for a legal poor black or white child." The poor black or white child should be considered first! Unfortunately that is not the case, especially in Huntington, where much of the money goes to ESL. It may not be politically correct to make these statements but at some point we need to look at the truth over worry about everyones feelings. Long Island residence are sinking fast, metaphorically speaking of course. We as a population can no longer afford this and is it really RIGHT to TELL us to do it????
JSC April 24, 2011 at 03:15 PM
Ok then, what exactly do YOU think that the districts can do, legally, right now, about cutting out the programs to educate illegal children? I would really like to know.
JSC April 24, 2011 at 03:29 PM
I understand your concern, but I'd like to see the proof that the money is going to the ESL children and NOT to anyone else! If, by law, we have to educate ALL, then just how are we mismanaging our funds right now? Aren't our poor children getting the services they need? Don't we have a lot of extra help classes, resource room help, Saturday morning programs, AIS in the secondary, etc? If our test scores are down in the sub-group of special ed, are you saying we aren't spending enough there? Actually, it is one of our most expensive codes in the budget! And there are children in special ed from ALL walks of life, illegal to legal, white to black to Hispanic, rich to poor. There is NO drawing the line, do you see? And then do we go to this? Kicking an illegal high schooler out of an AP class? Cut the SEARCH program as non-essential? No, I say, again, there is no drawing the line. Regardless of whether any one person thinks we can afford ESL, or any other program that children need, it is the law. The argument is moot. The solutions to the financial problems aren't in cutting student-needed programs. It is in changing how we finance education in NYS, from mandates, to benefits, to pensions, to salaries, to offering basic services, to reimbursing districts for targeted spending, to classifying districts as low wealth, high wealth etc. for state aid purposes, to giving school boards more power over negotiations, etc.
ed April 24, 2011 at 04:16 PM
FB and Bill, are you racist or are you just sick and tired of spending your money on programs for people who do not belong in the district. We should also require proof that kids live in the district. I agree forget PC do what is right for our kids and do it now. And Bill do they have FSL for kids in France who do not know French.
Pam Robinson (Editor) April 24, 2011 at 07:03 PM
Schools do not have the authority to determine people's legal status, so your belief that they could just be dumped out of the system is incorrect. When I first registered my daughter with the public school system, she was a legal resident, not yet a citizen. At no time could or did that district ask me her legal status; when she entered the public system after going through several years of private school, she was again not asked her legal status, though, oddly, we got a kneejerk question about whether she would need ESL services before common sense prevailed. They were much more concerned with proof that we lived in the district than our right to do so. As a result of a 1982 Supreme Court decision, states are required to provide K-12 public education for students without legal immigrant status. Voting is a right of citizenship. A driver's license, as all kids are told, is a privilege, not a right. Education is considered too important to the well being of the community to leave people out on the basis of citizenship. As far as the number of illegal residents--I don't know whose numbers I'd consider trustworthy but I'd be willing to bet that many kids suspected of being illegal may have parents who crossed a border illegally but the kids themselves were born here, making them legal. Not being able to speak English well is not an indicator of citizenship. Because if it were, there'd be a whole bunch of native-born Americans open to challenge.
JSC April 24, 2011 at 10:41 PM
And the first thing that would happen would be a huge class action lawsuit against the district that attempts to do that! You want to pay for that one?
JSC April 24, 2011 at 10:44 PM
Districts do require proof that students live in the district. When it is found that someone is living in grandma's house and not the parents in another town, the district can force them to leave or pay tuition immediately. Yes, by law we have to educate all children living within the district's borders! What don't you guys understand about that?
Pam Robinson (Editor) April 25, 2011 at 01:01 AM
Bill. If it is offered, it has to be offered to all. More important, no district can decide to offer or not, based on citizenship status And it's Pam, not Pat.
rmms May 24, 2011 at 08:47 PM
Now that assignments have been made for A.M. and P.M., is there any chance the district will consider a request to switch sessions?
JSC May 24, 2011 at 10:19 PM
You should contact the principal of your building to find out what can be done. I would assume that you would have to have a pretty compelling argument for needing to switch, if they will do it at all.
rmms May 25, 2011 at 12:17 AM
Hi JSC, Spoken to the principal. The rule as of Friday was NO EXCEPTIONS. My only argument is that I need to go to work to pay my taxes. I understand the situation the town is in, they need to consider busing and racial make-up of the classes, etc... but I am sure there are many parents who are in a similar situation. Just very frustrated with the situation. I am wondering if they are taking into account how many people will not be able to enroll due to their AM/PM assignment. Or maybe they are hoping people drop out? I love Washington Primary, and was hoping my youngest would have the same great experience as her siblings.
JSC May 25, 2011 at 01:13 AM
I can understand their reasoning, and they figure that people will find a way to deal with whatever they get. When my kids were in school, they had a half day K, and we had to switch mid year from AM to PM or vice versa. I've heard that whatever time you get is what you will keep for the whole year, so that at least is better than what we had to do! Unfortunately, I doubt that the "I have to work to pay my taxes" argument is going to fly, as I'm sure many parents are in the same situation. So, unless you're fortunate enough to have family around that can take your child, you'll have to find a babysitter, a full day program elsewhere, or a half day program elsewhere that your child can get bused to. Yeah, sometimes reality stinks, but it's reality, it's your child and you'll have to handle it!
rmms May 25, 2011 at 11:40 AM
I understand as well, but I am still frustrated. I don't know why you turned hostile. You said it, there are many parents in the same situation however the school district has not left the working parents of Huntington with very many options. We have missed the cutoff if we want them bussed to private Kindergarten, the Half Day Enrichment Program flyers coming home with the older kids are all for programs outside of the Huntington #3 busing zone. I am fortunate that I can and will pay for another year of pre-school. However, I have been advised that I am doing my child a terrible disservice by not allowing them to go to Kindergarten. I'm not looking for a fight, I'm looking to other parents as a resource in how to deal with the politics of this district. For the record, I don't know what district you are in, but I think the mid-year switch was probably a nightmare for the parents AND the kids.
JSC May 25, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Sorry if you took what I said as hostile, it wasn't intended to be - just reality, honesty for what you are facing. Yes, I'm in Huntington. You have missed the April 1 cut-off, but they are extending it for the new K parents. So call the transportation office and find out what you need to do to get a bus! There are a lot of programs locally attempting to do a K enrichment program to help out. The YMCA is still intending on running one, I know they seem to be dragging their feet, but they are looking for a bigger space. The Y building itself only has one interior room that could be used right now. Call them too, 421-4242 and talk to Eileen Knauer or Nancy Reeves. And I'd agree that you are doing your child a disservice by not moving them into Kindergarten at all, especially if they are ready and age-appropriate. You'll be able to find another program to put them in for the other half of the day and you should be able to get the bus you need. CALL!
Suzanne May 31, 2011 at 01:10 AM
There is a new Kindergarten Enrichment program at West Hills Day Camp. You can find out more calling the camp at 631.427.6700 or by visiting them on facebook by cutting and pasting the following link into your browser: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Huntington-NY/West-Hills-Kindergarten-Enrichment/113687578718313
Wendy Harrington June 01, 2011 at 04:47 PM
West Hills Montessori (on the grounds of West HIlls Day Camp) is now enrolling for their Kindergarten Enrichment (non- Montessori) program, to help parents cover the half day Kindergarten that Huntington Schools is offering. My son attends the school and it is an amazing program on 18 acres of land. On the grounds they also have 7 pools, 5 playgrounds. The enrichment program will be offering the children science, gym, music, art, computers and spanish. You can find out more by calling the school at 631.427.6700 or email at info@westhillsmontessori.org


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