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Northport-East Northport parents demand full-day kindergarten

Residents of Northport school district convene on the

Residents of Northport school district convene on the school board meeting to push for full day kindergarten, Feb. 9, 2015. Credit: Johnny Milano

Parents have called on the Northport-East Northport school board to extend kindergarten to a full day in the 2015-16 school year.

More than 100 parents presented a petition with nearly 2,000 signatures at Monday's board meeting, asking the panel to take action on an issue residents have sought for years.

David Stein, the parent who organized the petition and started a Facebook page championing the cause, said if the board "works with a realistic and sound budget, and taxes us in keeping with past year increases, it would not only cover the costs associated with full-day kindergarten, but it would have the effect of actually causing no change to our overall increases."

Board members told the crowd they support the concept.

"All of us are on the record saying it's all about the resources," trustee Donna McNaughton said.

While the district can receive some financial assistance from the state for the first year of converting to full-day kindergarten, the board must consider funding the extension long term.

Northport is one of 18 districts -- including six on Long Island -- in the state that do not have full-day kindergarten, according to the state Department of Education.

Northport has 256 children enrolled in half-day kindergarten this school year, state figures show.

Parents said they are concerned about their children being competitive in first grade and beyond -- particularly given Common Core requirements.

Interim Superintendent Thomas Caramore said the district has resolved one of the biggest obstacles to full-day kindergarten -- having enough classroom space.

Board members said they face the challenge of finding the money to extend the school day for the district's youngest students, but Caramore said he feels "fairly confident that we will be able to come up with the funds."

Caramore's comments followed a lengthy school board meeting where parents and community members crowded into a room at Northport's William J. Brosnan School. Several carried signs reading "Full-Day K Now" and "Our Kids Need Full Day!"

"As a group of 2,000 and growing, we are here to demand that this board direct the interim superintendent to put the program in this year's budget," Stein said.

About a dozen parents spoke to the board.

Several community members said the board's job was to find a way to make full-day kindergarten happen.

"This community will back this board if you put forth the right budget," Stein said. "The community wants these schools to be great."

Board members said they hope those who signed the petition vote for a budget that includes full-day kindergarten.

"Our total [state] aid in this district is $12.6 million, which is not a lot of money," Caramore said. "The rest of it is picked up primarily by the taxpayers and whatever we can use from reserves."

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