Despite the controversy surrounding the introduction of afternoon kindergarten in Riverside Elementary School District 96, according to the superintendent the initial round of kindergarten registration has gone smoothly, with only one student not assigned to their preferred time slot.
Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson explained that the parents of that individual student had requested afternoon kindergarten, but it was not offered in their neighborhood school, Hollywood School, in Brookfield. Afternoon kindergarten is only being offered at Ames and Central schools in Riverside, with one section at each school.
“Out of 123 students, every family received their first preference except one,” Lamberson said. “We have a 99.2 percent satisfaction rate.”
But some parents did voice displeasure at the new set up at the District 96 school board’s meeting March 20. Some parents decried the reduction in the number of afternoon enrichment classes for kindergarten students beginning in 2007-08. Others pushed the board to consider full-day kindergarten as an option.
“Some wanted full-day kindergarten and some wanted enrichment offered in the same way it’s been in the past,” Lamberson said. I’d love to do it, but I don’t know how we’re going to be able to do it.
“We haven’t seen this high of an enrollment in 35 years,” he added. “Unless you have class sizes go up, you’re going to have to grab a classroom [for afternoon kindergarten].”
When the district first announced in January that it would be adding afternoon kindergarten sessions, parents feared their students would be arbitrarily assigned to the later time slot, inconveniencing working parents and excluding students from the district’s kindergarten enrichment program.
The enrichment program is currently offered in the afternoon after morning kindergarten session. Traditionally, up to two-thirds of the district’s kindergarten students have been enrolled in it.
The enrichment program will still be offered during the 2007-08 school year. However, with just one section at each elementary school, it will be more limited than in past years.
Lamberson said that 94 students had registered for the 2007-08 afternoon enrichment program so far. Normally enrichment classes have been capped at 20 students, limiting the seats available this year to 80. Lamberson said the school board has given him permission to slightly increase enrichment class sizes to accommodate extra students.
“Students may have to travel from Central to Hollywood or from Central to Blythe Park, but at least it could be available to everyone,” he said.
Lamberson stated that those families would be on their own regarding transportation of students from one school to the other for the enrichment program. The district will not be providing the transportation.
“There was never discussion of building that cost into the program,” Lamberson said. “I envision that there will be 14 families caught in this situation.”
Asked if the district would think of adding a transportation into the equation next year, Lamberson said he wasn’t sure.
“I don’t know how many enrichment programs we’re going to be able to offer [if enrollment continues to increase],” Lamberson said.
Lamberson also noted that the enrollment of 123 students represented an 18 percent increase from this time last year. Lamberson said he expected enrollment to eventually reach about 160, the maximum number of kindergarten seats available in the district, by the beginning of the next school year.
Bob Uphues contributed to this report.