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Elwood school district proposes full-day kindergarten

Elwood Superintendent Peter Scordo at the school board's

Elwood Superintendent Peter Scordo at the school board's budget meeting at Elwood Middle School on March 19, 2015. Credit: Johnny Milano

Elwood school district Superintendent Peter Scordo has proposed extending the district's kindergarten to a full-day program from 2 1/2 hours.

Scordo said at Thursday's board of education meeting that the proposal, which needs the board's approval, would not require cuts to other programs. It would cost $372,059 to extend kindergarten at Harley Avenue Primary School, the district's only elementary school, he said.

"It's essential that we have a full-day K program . . . so we can be competitive," Scordo said at the meeting, citing the rigorous national Common Core academic standards.

Officials projected 140 kindergarten students would enroll full-time in 2015-2016. Elwood currently has 127 enrolled in half-day. Increases are common because full-day kindergarten attracts more students.

District cost estimates to extend kindergarten ranged from $13,500 to $14,500 per student.

Scordo said full-day kindergarten would create more time for science and social studies and would give students more creative playtime and special enrichment classes, including music, art, library and physical education.

The district is among 18 in the state, including six on Long Island, that do not have full-day kindergarten. Northport-East Northport School officials recently announced plans to expand to full-day kindergarten in 2015-2016.

"Every district needs full-day kindergarten," said Wendi Stranieri, an Elwood resident active in district developments. "You need to start preparing your children for the future as early as possible."

The change would add two classroom teachers starting next year.

The expansion is part of Elwood's $59.6 million budget proposal, which could be the only one on Long Island to exceed the state tax cap. The district projects a 3.76 percent tax levy increase, though Scordo hopes the district could avoid busting the 2.22 percent cap. To pierce the tax cap, the board will need approval from 60 percent of voters.

The final levy increase will depend on state aid, a number that will not be available until April 1 -- if the state budget passes on time. The district anticipates $12.5 million in state aid."The community wants full-day kindergarten and I think that they are willing to pay for it," Stranieri said. "I just wish Albany would hurry up and give us a figure so that we know where we stand."Elwood, a largely residential, single-family-home community with a population of about 11,000, has struggled to generate tax revenue.

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