At Shenendehowa, space is biggest hurdle for full-day kindergarten

Students at Shenendehowa's Karigon Elementary School in Clifton Park prepare to go home on the first day of school in 2016PHOTOGRAPHER: 
MARC SCHULTZ/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHERStudents at Shenendehowa's Karigon Elementary School in Clifton Park prepare to go home on the first day of school in 2016PHOTOGRAPHER: MARC SCHULTZ/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

By Kassie Parisi

Gazette Reporter

CLIFTON PARK — The New York state Senate on Tuesday overrode Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s April veto of legislation that could help bring full-day kindergarten to the Shenendehowa Central School District.

The Senate bill calls for expanded funding for the five New York state school districts that do not offer full-time kindergarten: Shenendehowa, Brighton, Pittsford, Washingtonville and North Rockland. The new funds are meant to help those districts transition to full-day programs.

The amount of aid each district would receive depends on the amount of state Foundation Aid that district already gets each year, according to the legislation.

For Shenendehowa, however, a lack of space is a more significant barrier to a full-day kindergarten program than funding.

Shen has been grappling with the issue of implementing a full-day kindergarten for years, and officials have previously expressed concerns about finding space for it.

Shenendehowa offers six half-day kindergarten sessions at each of the district’s eight elementary schools.

 The district, which has a total of about 10,000 students, also offers an extended-day program that allows students to stay beyond the half-day program for supplemental instruction.District spokeswoman Kelly DeFeciani said that, while increased funding could pay for some aspects of full-day kindergarten, such as teacher salaries and classroom amenities and supplies, the district first must find a physical space in which to house the program.

“The main thing is that funding isn’t our issue; it’s space,” she said.

The bill will now go to the state Assembly for consideration, where it must pass with a two-thirds majority vote to complete the veto override and make the bill into a law.

In April, district Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson presented a full-day kindergarten analysis to the Board of Education that focused on what the district would need to do to offer full-day kindergarten.

Some questions posed by Robinson include whether a redistricting effort would be needed, or whether a new school would be needed.

During the 2017-18 school year, there were 561 students enrolled in Shen’s half-day kindergarten program, with 15 full-time kindergarten teachers.

Robinson said many parents who now send their children to private kindergarten programs would probably utilize a full-day kindergarten program at Shen if the district offered one, and that could lead to another 200 kindergartners each year, based on the number of students who live in the district and attended private kindergarten last year.

In order to accommodate a full-day program, Shen would need to hire at least 15 more full-time teachers and add at least 19 more classrooms, according to data from the district.

Shen would need to hold a referendum asking residents to approve the construction of any new school buildings, DeFeciani said. If approved, building the school would take at least five years and would cost at least $2 million to get started.

“It’s not like next year we would be having full-day kindergarten,” she said.