The Board of Education at its meeting on Feb. 27 approved a full-day kindergarten program for the 2023-24 school year, ending the tuition-based OKEEP full-day program. The move allows all D58 students to participate in the full-day program.
“Full-day kindergarten strengthens students’ social and emotional skills while providing many academic benefits. I’m thrilled that we can offer a full-day option to every child in District 58,” said Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell.
He also noted that the program is now financially feasible due to three changes in the district’s revenue stream.
“We are now in a position financially where we can offer kindergarten without paid tuition,” said Dr. Russell. The passing of the facility referendum allows capital projects to be paid through the referendum bonds rather than operating funds, thus freeing up monies. Second, the dissolution of the downtown TIF (Tax Increment Financing District) provides a property tax revenue increase for the district. Finally, there are additional funds available through the state’s Evidence-Based Funding model that counts kindergarten students as full-day rather than half-day students. These three factors ensure the financial sustainability of a full-day kindergarten program.
At the board meeting on Feb. 27, administrators noted the benefits of full-day kindergarten, especially for those with special needs, students who need academic support and students whose families are experiencing hardship or who have not attended preschool. The full-day program enhances a half-day program by providing young students with increased discovery opportunities, additional instructional and socialization time and meaningful play-based learning. It also allows a more developmentally appropriate schedule that intersperses academic content with unstructured play, and gives teachers a better opportunity to cover the Illinois Learning Standards for kindergarten.
District 58 has currently offered a traditional, free half-day (morning) kindergarten program and an optional, tuition-based half-day (afternoon) enrichment program, called OKEEP.
Full-Day Kindergarten has been a discussion in the District 58 community for over two decades. The OKEEP program began in Title I schools in 2015-16 and all D58 schools in 2016-17. Providing a more equitable solution and a full-day program was developed out of the 2018 Strategic Plan, which is based on community/parent/staff input, and a continuous growth model.
By state law, school districts must offer a half-day kindergarten option. Families interested in pursuing this program should contact their school office.