The 'gift of time:' Board reviews first year of full-day K

Frenchtown Elementary School Kindergarten teacher Arline Alves thanked the Board of Education and the town for what she called the “gift of time.”

Alves said kindergarten students are writing multiple sentences with ease, excelling in reading, among other subjects, and getting intervention and socialization time they need — something she said was much harder to achieve when Trumbull had a half-day program.

The full-day kindergarten program was implemented for the first time this school year. During last year’s budget season school officials pegged the cost of implementing full-day kindergarten at $827,000. As the end of the year approaches, full-day kindergarten staff gave a review of progress to the Board of Education Tuesday night.

Alves said it has been a lot of work for teachers changing to a full-day program, but well worth it. The half-day program, which was two and one-half hours, did not provide enough time to reach all the state and federal standards, or give children time for social growth, Alves said.

Having time for activities like recess and stations allows for teachers to better assess student’s needs and development.

“Recess is when you see the conflict and how they work things out,” Alves said

Frenchtown Elementary School Principal Jacqueline Norcel compared last year’s half-day student reading progress to student progress this year. More students than ever are reading at a higher level and fewer are needing intervention.

“In time, intervention will not be needed as much as children go on,” Norcel said.

Norcel said the program will mean future success and improvement as these students move up in the Trumbull school system, as well as the district saving money because students will need less assistance.

Gary Cialfi, assistant superintendent, who will be stepping up as superintendent next year, called the first year of the program “a resounding success.” The district formed a Full Day Kindergarten Committee in 2009, which began researching the possibility of bringing the program to Trumbull.

“The advantages we studied of full-day K has become a reality,” Cialfi said.

Cialfi said teachers across each elementary school continue to meet and work together to ensure there is consistency across schools.

Superintendent Ralph Iassogna, who is retiring at the end of the year, said the implementation of full-day kindergarten is among the top hallmarks of his career in Trumbull.

He said it was an important move that the rest of the state and country is following.

Jane Ryan Principal Mary Ellen Bolton went through some of the curriculum students were able to do this year, including doing a research project on a living thing, studying the gestation and development of baby chickens by hatching some in class and progress in math.

Even the “quiet time” set aside in the school day proves useful, she said.

“Students use that as reading time on their mats and there is also individual assessment and instruction going on in that time,” Bolton said.

She and other educators also spoke to the importance of having paraprofessionals in the classroom, assisting throughout the day where needed.

Board of Education Vice Chair Deborah Herbst said she was thrilled to hear the review of the first year. Herbst is a former full-day kindergarten teacher and school principal, who was among those officials who pushed for the program in Trumbull. She recently visited Trumbull kindergarten classrooms and was happy with the results.

“I saw a lot of higher level skills,” Herbst said.

Board Chair Stephen Wright said Deborah Herbst deserved thanks for successfully bringing the program to Trumbull.

“She convinced me this is more than all-day baby-sitting,” Wright said of Herbst. “She told me the results would be amazing.”

Wright also thanked the public and town officials.

“We were able to get it in during a difficult economy,” he said. “The whole community should be proud of that.”