Inter-Lakes board wants to seriously consider full day kindergarten

MEREDITH — Full-day kindergarten could be a reality for Inter-Lakes Elementary School as early as the 2014-2015 school year, if the School Board and voters agree to a proposal. Board members gave the district's superintendent approval to begin developing a district-wide proposal, and also gave consent for one of the board's Sandwich representatives to begin pursuing full-day kindergarten in that town as early as the coming school year.
Full-day kindergarten is thought by many to offer long-lasting benefits to a child's academic performance, especially those who might require intervention to address a specific shortcoming. The Laconia School District has already implemented full-day kindergarten throughout the district, and at a meeting earlier this year a Center Harbor parent who works in the Laconia district wondered why her child couldn't access the same benefits at Inter-Lakes Elementary.
Howard Cunningham, a board member from Sandwich, asked at last night's meeting if any other board members would object to his exploration of expanding the kindergarten day at Sandwich Central School, providing he could arrange to have any additional expenses paid for through either private donations or what he called "Sandwich community funds."
"Full-day kindergarten, and some degree of support for pre-school children, might help us retain younger families," Cunningham said.
The out-migration of young families is an issue for the region, he said, arguing that a full day of kindergarten, as opposed to the conventional half day, might give parents a reason to raise their children in the Inter-Lakes district.
"Full-day kindergarten uncomplicates the lives of parents to a large extent," he said. "I think it's time that the Inter-Lakes School District as a whole undertakes the question of full-day kindergarten,I would hope it's something we could implement in the next budget cycle."
Offering full-day kindergarten in Sandwich is a relatively inexpensive proposal as the small school utilizes multi-age classrooms. The kindergartners share a classroom and a teacher with first graders, so having them stay for the entirety of the school day represents little extra cost as opposed to having them leave at mid-day — the teacher is already working a full school day. At the larger Inter-Lakes Elementary in Meredith, the change could require the hiring of additional personnel.
Cunningham's suggestion prompted only murmurs of support, with no board members objecting. Chair Richard Hanson said, "I'm not hearing any concerns... this is something we should be considering, I agree."
Upon hearing the board's reaction, Superintendent Mary Ellen Ormond said she would gladly begin working with administrators to put together a proposal to offer full-day kindergarten for every student in the district.
The board will next meet on Wednesday, May 29, at 6 p.m. One of the board's "special meetings," it will be held at the Meredith Community Center and is intended to accommodate a round table-like talk of any concerns community members wish to discuss.