In a Board of Education candidate forum on Wednesday, a question arose as to whether the board’s recent discussions on implementing full-day kindergarten was akin to that of free daycare.
One by one the candidates — all of whom partook in civil discourse during a Berlin Patch-sponsored forum at Berlin High school — offered much of the same answer: with the demands on children in the modern educational environment, it’s important that they begin learning earlier.
“Many towns in the surrounding area have gone to full day kindergarten,” said incumbent candidate Kristin Campanelli. “And we’ve seen success from that.”
The board is slated to discuss the issue during a special meeting at Griswold School on Tuesday. Superintendent David B. Erwin noted that the issue has been of "considerable discussion in the state and the country," and that full-day kindergarten is something the state is looking to implement into its Common Core State Standards in education.
The part about full-day kindergarten being just "day care" for certain families was posed by a reader to Berlin Patch Editor Robert Mayer, who in turn asked the candidates that during the forum.
Citing research and studies, most board members running for election in 2012 agreed that full-day kindergarten would rather be an overall benefit to a child’s early development. Many refuted this claim from a reader — who described his or herself as a “senior citizen” — that such a program would be day care. Cynthia Kobus, another incumbent candidate, called the question “almost offensive.”
“These teachers are amazing. To take a little kid who just wants to be home with his mom and is thrown into this environment and is asked to learn,” Kobus said.
“It’s not daycare.”
Another candidate, Charles Paonessa, noted that full-day kindergarten may help some families out. But, like the other board members, he said he was in agreement the program.
Only one candidate, Thomas Niemiec, took some of the opposite point of view. He said he agreed with full-day kindergarten but noted that there was an argument to be made about the cost it would place on Berlin taxpayers.
A question voiced earlier in the forum centered on whether the district was teaching too much to the importance of a test. Kobus seized on this when discussing the full-day kindergarten argument.
“The state is mandating that we update our curriculum, and if you don’t want us to teach to the test, then we’re going to have full day kindergarten,” Kobus said.