Starting next fall, working parents of kindergartners in Riverside Elementary School District 96 will no longer have to scramble to find daycare for the portion of the school day during which kindergarteners are not in school. 

On Feb. 16 the District 96 Board of Education unanimously voted to switch to full-day kindergarten for the 2022-23 academic year.

Parents in District 96 have long complained about the lack of full-day kindergarten. Before the vote, school board members David Barsotti and Lynda Murphy spoke of how surprised they were when they moved to Riverside and discovered that District 96 didn’t offer full-day kindergarten.

“Fifteen years ago I was shocked that we didn’t have it, and I am so glad that we can be a part of the board that explored this,” Murphy said after noting that the change is coming much too late to help her, since her two children are now in high school. “I’m really excited that this day has come.” 

Board members said their decision to switch to full-day kindergarten was influenced by the recommendation of a district committee formed earlier this school year, which recommended the switch to full-day kindergarten in a lengthy report and discussion with the board two weeks ago.

Board member Joel Marhoul and board President Dan Hunt said they were initially skeptical about the benefits of full-day kindergarten, but the committee’s report and input was convincing.

“What ultimately tipped the balance for me was the teachers and their analysis and their discussions just about the advantages of extra time with the kids, how much benefit that provides” Marhoul said.

Hunt agreed, adding that he was especially persuaded by comments of members of the committee who had taught both full-day and half-day kindergarten.

“There was not an ounce of skepticism or on-the-fence amongst them,” Hunt said.

Barsotti also said the committee’s input convinced him that full-day kindergarten was worth the cost.

“I could go either way, but it was based on the work that the committee did and their recommendation,” Barsotti said.

Implementing full-day kindergarten will be expensive. It is projected to cost the district at least an additional $434,385 next year, and that’s assuming that all seven new teachers who are hired will be on the lowest rung of the salary scale, which is based on experience. 

Four of the new teachers will be kindergarten teachers, and the district will also hire one additional teacher in three areas: art, music and physical education.

“Half a million dollars is not peanuts,” Hunt said.

Marhoul noted that the district is financially strong and can afford the expense.

“Our finances are good [and] although a half million dollars a year extra is not insignificant, in many ways the community has already been paying for this,” Marhoul said. 

Recent expansion projects at the district’s four elementary schools have created the space to accommodate full-day kindergarten. 

Parents who believe that their kindergartener is not ready for a full day of school or don’t want to send their child to school for a full day will still have the option for their child to go to kindergarten for half a day in the mornings, although there will not be a separate half-day kindergarten class. 

District 96 will make a kindergarten registration video presentation available on demand on March 9 after 5 p.m. at