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Betsy’s Corner: Caring about Kindergarten

By Betsy Huber Port

What do you remember about kindergarten? I can recall a lot! My best friend and I met in Miss Bixby’s class over fifty years ago in Public School #8 in Yonkers, New York. We are still close friends, both living in Massachusetts. We learned our letters and our numbers. We played with blocks and read books. Teachers taught us to share and to care. We learned to clean up and we took a nap on our mats. As a substitute assistant teacher at the kindergarten level at both Blueberry Hill and Center Schools, half a century later, I know how much has changed in the world of a 5-6 year old! We need to create a firm foundation for all children, and that should be our priority!
We now have national common core requirements. There is no more naptime because there is so much to accomplish. You might call the free time similar to play time of decades ago, but most of the time is devoted to learning, doing and work. Over 90% of Massachusetts children attend full day kindergarten and 85% attend for no additional cost to their parents. Longmeadow is a follower not a leader on this topic. We are the only Western Massachusetts community not to offer funded full time kindergarten to all kids. Why? Children are happier and healthier with full day kindergarten according to the NEA, National Educational Association. The benefits are intellectual, social and emotional. The NEA also states on their website that there is $3 saved long term for every $1 spent on full day kindergarten.
Does Longmeadow really have a choice on this subject? Studies show that most communities nationwide do offer full day kindergarten. Remember this is 2016… and your children and grandchildren will deal with a very different world than we did when we were school age. We need to fund this and we need it now! Habits and learning tools need to start young! Problems can be identified sooner in the full day situation and we can correct issues that need attention. This early intervention will save money down the road. Children who do not attend full day kindergarten will fall behind meeting the standards set by common core. Many teachers will agree! There is also a national trend to fund public nursery schools, so that is the direction we are headed towards.
How can you help? A decision will be made at the Select Board Meeting on Thursday, March 17 at the High School from 7-9 pm in room 15. Get vocal! Stand up for the children of this community. Do we want Longmeadow to be a leader in public education? I think we would agree that the answer is yes!