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Board Of Education Discusses Upcoming Kindergarten Readiness Program



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The Board of Education discussed the upcoming full-day Kindergarten Readiness program that will be piloted for the 2024-25 school year at their Tuesday, June 18 meeting.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Anne Uberti presented an update regarding the program to the BOE, saying that planning in preparation for it is “moving along as expected.”

Kindergarten Readiness is a district program designed for students who are not within the age to enter kindergarten after legislation passed by Connecticut in 2023 raised the age children can start public school kindergarten.

With the change in law going into effect on July 1 of this year, children entering kindergarten will now need to be at least five years old on or before September 1 in order to attend.

Uberti said that a universal screener was administered to all students who registered for kindergarten this past winter. As part of the online registration process, parents could check a box if their children would meet the age requirement on or before September 1, indicating a waiver request.

In order to be granted a waiver, the student would have to demonstrate via the screener that they were developmentally appropriate to attend kindergarten. Students who did not turn five on or before September 1 and did not meet those developmental milestones qualified for the program.

Parents and guardians were notified of their children’s placements at the end of February and, as of the current BOE meeting, Uberti said that there are 18 students set to begin the Kindergarten Readiness program this fall.

When asked by BOE member Chris Gilson how the program would differ from traditional kindergarten, Uberti said that it would be a totally standalone curriculum. Uberti added that the program’s curriculum would tie back to and build the students up in those elements within the screening criteria.

She continued by saying that the Kindergarten Readiness program aims to be a play-based program focusing on developing key skills to be successful in kindergarten. These include physical development, language development, adaptive behavior, alongside academic skills and cognitive development.

Uberti clarified that they will effectively operate and feel like kindergarten.

“For the kids who are in it, they’re not going to know that they’re not in kindergarten,” Uberti continued. “They’re going to have the same lunches as the kindergartners, they’re going to have the same recess, they’re gonna go on the same playground just like the regular kindergartners.”

BOE member Doria Linnetz asked that, since the program is a pilot, how they would go about assessing its success and whether they would want to continue it or not.

Uberti said that they plan to screen students in the Kindergarten Readiness program in the fall when they come in, screen them again in January, and then screen them again at the end of the year.

“The reality of the timing is difficult, because we won’t have had a full year of data,” Uberti continued. “So I think we’ll have to include some observational data, some experiences learned, and some feedback from the parents as to how it’s going, because obviously we will be looking at budgeting for this again for the following year.”

BOE member Shannon Tomei said, at least for her, that “it would be hard to agree to spend money on it next year without actually being able to see the growth without very clear metrics.”

Uberti responded by saying that she understood, and that they will have some metrics to share in the future.

Superintendent of Schools Christopher Melillo then expressed his thoughts on the program, saying that while he understands that there is a concern about the overlap of curriculum, he sees the program as “an opportunity to address achievement gaps that exist in all school districts.”

“If this program didn’t exist, and if we rewind it back a year, you would have students not ready for kindergarten attending kindergarten,” Melillo continued. “So we have an opportunity to take the 18 students that we have in this program and close that gap before they walk through the doors of kindergarten.”

Beyond discussing the Kindergarten Readiness program, Board of Education Chairman Alison Plante briefly reflected on finally reaching the end of the school year. She said that she thought last week was “the best week of the year to be a Board of Education member and really a member of the community in general.”

She congratulated all of Newtown’s recent graduates, saying that they were incredibly proud of them, and also thanked all of the town’s faculty and staff for another productive year of teaching and learning.

As Melillo is leaving his superintendent position on June 30, Plante finished her report by thanking Melillo for his two years of service in Newtown and wished him all the best in his next role.

Melillo expressed his gratitude to the BOE, as well as the staff, teachers, and families in Newtown, saying that it was an immense honor to serve as their superintendent. He added that their support and commitment to the community had been instrumental in driving the district forward.

“I will carry with me the many lessons learned and the memories of our time together. I wish all of you the very best and continued success in your endeavors,” Melillo said. “And thank you all for your partnership, and for the privilege of working with such a dedicated, inspiring community.”


Reporter Jenna Visca can be reached at jenna@thebee.com.

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