By Bob Uphues
When the construction dust settles in Brookfield-LaGrange Park Elementary School District 95 for the opening of the 2019-20 school year, there will be six new kindergarten classrooms capable of housing a new all-day kindergarten program at Brook Park School in LaGrange Park.
But before that becomes reality, district officials are letting parents and teachers know that for 2018-19, kindergarten classrooms won't be in LaGrange Park at all. Instead, kindergarten will be held in three first-floor classrooms at S.E. Gross Middle School in Brookfield.
"We believe the recommendation of putting kindergarten at S.E. Gross for the year of transition was the most logical and prudent way to proceed," said Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski at a meeting of the school board's curriculum committee on Oct. 30.
Kuzniewski said that while any grade might have moved during the 2018-19 school year, kindergarten was the only logical group. Any other grade level would require the students to be at S.E. Gross all day and would require them to have extra locker space, additional staff for specials, like art and gym.
"So for a one-year move, kindergarten seems to make the most sense," Kuzniewski said. "We feel like we can best accommodate them here."
Kuzniewski dismissed the idea of moving kindergarten temporarily to an offsite location, not only because kindergarten sections could be accommodated at S.E. Gross, but because doing that would also mean staffing an offsite location.
"Secretaries, nurses, social workers – all the things kids would potentially need access to – would have to be put in that other site for one year," Kuzniewski said.
District 95 also doesn't offer special classes such as gym, music or art in kindergarten, which right now is only a half-day program. Kindergarten students do attend a "Lit Lab," where instruction is provided by reading improvement teachers who visit the classroom.
There are still some details to work out regarding just who will evaluate kindergarten teachers next year, since the elementary school administrators will still be at Brook Park.
The school district also still needs to nail down bus schedules and at which door kindergarten students will be dropped off and picked up, but kindergarten classes – three in the morning and two in the afternoon – will be housed in three adjacent classrooms presently used for Spanish, special education and by LADSE.
District 95 also houses its early childhood education program at S.E. Gross School. Once the expansion and renovation project is completed at Brook Park School, kindergarten and early childhood education will relocate back to the LaGrange Park elementary school, which serves students through fifth grade.
The three classrooms set aside at S.E. Gross School ought to be able to comfortably handle what is expected to be five sections of kindergarten next year. It's possible, said Kuzniewski, that kindergarten enrollment may drop next year.
Some families with other children attending Brook Park School may opt to send their kindergartners to St. Louise de Marillac School, which is just down the street from Brook Park.
The district already saw a drop in kindergarten enrollment for 2017-18, following an all-time high enrollment last year. This year, the program has 102 students versus enrollment of 121 in 2016-17.
"There are some factors that might drop those kindergarten numbers next year," Kuzniewski said.