Washingtonville Full-Day Kindergarten Starts Fall 2019
By Eugenia Moskowitz
It was three years in the making — three years of fighting in Albany for state funding for the Washingtonville Central School District to transition to providing full-day kindergarten for its youngest students. And on Apr. 4, Assemblyman James Skoufis celebrated this hard-won funding victory at Washingtonville’s central administration building with some very happy members of the school district including superintendent Roy Reese; elementary principals Barbara Quinn, Steve Kiel, and Sagrario Rudecindo-O’Neill; middle school principal Teresa Thompson and assistant principal Steven Nyarady; high school principal Brian Connolly; business and operations administrators Paul Nienstadt and Kevin Sullivan; special education teacher Erin Santorelly; and school board members Colleen Doyle, Jen Dellova, and John O’Neill.
Currently all kindergarten students in the district attend school only half-day, some AM, some PM, with all the classes housed at Taft Elementary School. Taft’s principal Barbara Quinn said, “We have long felt that two-and-a-half hours of instruction time is not enough to fully realize the academic, social, and emotional development necessary to prepare students for first grade and beyond.” Especially, she said, for those enrolled in AM classes which get cancelled during 2-hour delay openings. She said it has been a worthwhile struggle in Albany. Kindergarten classes will be housed in 2019 in the brand new Round Hill Elementary School expansion space with Steve Kiel as principal.
Everybody agreed it will be an asset to kindergartners for their teachers to have one group for the full day instead of double the amount of students for half the time. Superintendent Roy Reese said, “The teachers get to know their young students better, which translates into greater academic success for students down the road and giving our kids a good start to the academic rigors, decision making, and coping skills they will face as they go on. I thank James Skoufis for his tenacity that brought full day kindergarten to Washingtonville.” Reese and Skoufis have been wrangling in Albany for assistance funding for full-day kindergarten for the last three years. The state will now pay the full conversion cost for the first year, over half for the second year, and about a third for the third year. Five new kindergarten teachers will be hired. The state had originally said the transition had to be done in fall of 2018 but since the Round Hill expansion wouldn’t be finished by then, Skoufis fought to make the deadline fall 2019.
“Every single kindergarten student in the state should be getting a comprehensive education,” Skoufis said, “no matter what their ZIP code. The space problem had been addressed in Washingtonville with the building expansion, but the money problem had persisted. This funding solves that problem and gets the job done.”
There is also a positive economic ripple effect to having full-day kindergarten. Half-day is undesirable and deters people from moving into the Washingtonville district. And working parents now won’t have the financial burden of having to provide half-day childcare for their children. That is now alleviated. As school board member Colleen Doyle said, “You can’t build a nice house without a good foundation.”
Special education teacher Erin Santorelly said, “I’m thankful that Assemblyman Skoufis has continued to advocate for full-day kindergarten. A full day program will give our students the best foundation for both academic and social success in the future.” Santorelly has already had one child go through half-day kindergarten and said she is pleased that her second child will be entering full-day in 2019.
CAPTION: Gathered at the Washingtonville Central School District administration building were (from l. to r.): Assemblyman James Skoufis, Superintendent Roy Reese, special education teacher Erin Santorelly, and Taft Elementary School principal Barbara Quinn, where each spoke at the funding victory announcement for the district’s transition to full-day kindergarten to start in the fall of 2019. (Photo by Eugenia Moskowitz)