The Verona Board of Education approved a resolution at its meeting on Tuesday night that puts full-day kindergarten up for a vote in Verona this November.
The ballot question will ask voters to approve spending $140,000 in addition to the school budget to expand Verona’s kindergarten program to what has been called the “Roseland model”. In that district, children have been attending a half-day kindergarten session from September through December, and then a full-day session from January through June. But Verona BOE member Joseph Bellino, who is the interim business administrator in Roseland, noted that, this fall, Roseland will be moving to a full-year full-day kindergarten session for the 2012-2013 school year.
Though Verona has debated the creation of full-day kindergarten many times in the past, the measure got on the BOE agenda this year at Internet speed, thanks largely to a push by a parents’ group on Facebook called Full-Day-K-For-Verona-NJ. The group garnered 243 signatures in favor of a resolution.
During the public comment portion of the BOE meeting Charity Dacey, one of the organizers of the Facebook group, thanked the BOE for considering full-day kindergarten. She noted that the group had heard from real estate agents that home buyers are looking for towns that have full day-kindergarten, and Verona is in the minority of towns in New Jersey that do not offer such an option. But Lisa Freschi, who does not have kindergarten-aged children, asked during the public comment part of the meeting how many instructional hours would be added under a full-day program. When told that it would be just 1 hour and 15 minutes, Freschi said that $140,000 “seems like a steep price for something that is not mandated by the state.’
Because of changes to state law this year, Verona will no longer have a separate vote on the main school budget, which was also discussed at Tuesday’s meeting. The kindergarten question will be put to voters in the same November election that chooses Board of Education members. If approved, it would go into effect in January 2013.
If full-day kindergarten does not meet with voter approval, parents of young children may still have some relief: Superintendent Steven A. Forte told the meeting that Verona will be bringing in-house the after-care program now run by the Montclair YMCA for elementary school students and will be seeking to staff the program with certified teachers.