Kindergarten through fifth grade students at Allen Creek Elementary gathered at a school assembly this morning to cheer the news that the Pittsford School District is moving closer to full day kindergarten.
The district is getting three years of additional state funding to make the transition from half-day kindergarten. Pittsford is one of only five districts in New York State that does not currently have full-day kindergarten.
"I believe that all students should have the same education across the state, and I'm glad that Pittsford is now going to have that opportunity," said Sarah Pelusio, the mother of a current kindergarten student. She said with the limitations of the half-day program, she's had to work with her son outside of school to teach him how to read.
"We work a lot on his key words. Obviously, reading is a big part of early education. He is finally, at this point in the school year, is starting to read a little bit; he's getting there. I've worked a lot of extra hours to get him to this point."
Pelusio is one of a number of parents, teachers, administrators, and school board members who have been advocating for full-day kindergarten for the past two years.
In 2017, Pittsford voters rejected a proposed school budget that proposed the shift to the new program. It would have increased property taxes by 4.7 percent.
Pittsford Board of Education president Amy Thomas said this year, the board understood that it would have to rely on “multiple levels of advocacy” to fund full-day kindergarten while remaining under the state tax cap.
Ultimately, the decision still lies with voters. District superintendent Michael Pero said Tuesday he would be presenting to the school board a budget that achieves that goal. The school board is expected to receive the proposed budget in time for its April 16 meeting.
Dwayne Cerbone, president of the Pittsford District Teachers' Association, says a shift to full-day kindergarten would give teachers more time to address students' social and emotional needs.
"The state standards require the same curriculum be covered whether it be a half-day or a full-day program. With a full day, the students will have more opportunities to play and engage at a new level."
New York State will reimburse the district 100 percent of the cost of transitioning to full-day kindergarten for the first year. In the following two years, the reimbursement rate will be 65 and 35 percent.
Pittsford Central School District and board of education leaders credit Senator Rich Funke with leading the effort to secure the additional funding.
School budget and school board elections will be held on Tuesday, May 15.