Warwick School District will start full-day kindergarten this fall

By on April 20, 2016

Also, in-school police officer approved for WHS at $80,000

The Warwick School District will begin full-day kindergarten for the 2016-17 school year.

The Warwick School Board approved the recommendation at their April 19 meeting. Initially, plans were to continue to study the effectiveness of the program for three years, but its success encouraged the board’s education committee to move the implementation to this fall.

According to the committee, an estimated 80 percent of parents are in favor of full-day kindergarten for their children. At least one parent expressed concerns that the quicker-than-expected implementation affected her planning for her child attending kindergarten.

Sue Ellen Hendricks explained that she had planned for her child to attend regular half-day kindergarten after learning that it would not start for three years. She made plans for part-time preschool to supplement her child’s education, only to find out full-day kindergarten would start this fall.

“I wish you had given parents time to prepare,” she said, adding that she did not have issues with full-day kindergarten being available and would be interested in her child having the more condensed early learning experience.

Another parent, Amy Sechrist, expressed her gratitude for full-day kindergarten. She reported that as a nurse manager and mother of young children, she was a big advocate of full-day kindergarten, as are many of her friends.

“It’s better to have a more focused kindergarten day,” said Sechrist.

The board approved the request for implementation of full-day kindergarten in all the elementary schools in the district starting with the 2016-17 school year. The option of half-day kindergarten will also be provided for families choosing that option.

The idea of full-day kindergarten was first presented to the Warwick School Board two years ago, when Melanie Calender, then director of elementary education for the Warwick School District, detailed a proposal to implement it.

At the time, Calender reported that the National Education Association had studied the benefits of full-day kindergarten, and studies had shown that full-day kindergarten students learn more in reading and math over the kindergarten year than those in half-day programs. Children in full-day kindergarten programs receive 40-50 percent more instruction than children enrolled in half-day kindergarten programs. Children who attend full-day kindergarten spend 30 percent more time on reading and literacy instruction and 46 percent more time on mathematics than children in half-day programs.

The children tend to exhibit more independent learning, classroom involvement, productivity in work with peers and reflectiveness than half-day kindergarteners, noted Calender. Other advantages include a more consistent schedule for children and better schedules for working families.

“We had been intending to wait for three years, but the effectiveness made us want to move it up earlier,” said school board member and education committee member Deb Wenger. “Seeing the growth of students made the difference.”

Other Lancaster County school districts that have implemented full-day kindergarten include Columbia, Lancaster, Manheim Central, Manheim Township, Octorara, and Pequea Valley.

The Warwick School Board also approved the appointment of a school resource officer (SRO) in partnership with the Lititz Borough Police, at an annual cost of $40,000. The total cost of $80,000 will be shared by the school district and the Lititz police.

Superintendent April Hershey explained that the school district would be using funds that were originally budgeted for a school security officer, who is no longer on staff.

The Warwick School District had applied for a grant that would have covered most of the expenses for an SRO, but they did not receive the grant. Working with Lititz Borough Police, they worked out a plan to have an SRO who would serve as a safety and security officer mainly at the high school and middle school.

Lititz Borough Police has already trained Officer Peter Savage as an SRO, with another officer as backup. Plans are for Savage to work Monday through Friday during the school year at the high school and middle school, with some coverage at elementary schools. He would also provide coverage at larger special events, like prom and sports championships.

As SRO, he would provide safety related training, develop school safety plans and procedures, be a police presence in the schools, provide a positive role model and serve as a catalyst to bring the school and community together. He has completed training to assist in situations such as child abuse, adolescent stress and students with special needs. Savage would continue to be a borough employee, working hours during the summer at the Lititz police department.

In other business, the board agreed to a 10-year contract with Shultz Transportation through 2026 to replace an eight-year contract through 2024, in exchange for Shultz installing camera and GPS systems in all busses by the start of the 2016-17 school year and all vans by 2017-18. There would be no additional cost to the school district.

The board transferred Frederick Griffiths from secondary technology coordinator for the school district to director of technology. He will replace Doreen Packer, who is retiring.

Laura Knowles is a freelance reporter who covers the Warwick School District beat for the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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