Within the next few weeks, the full-day kindergarten classrooms at will be operational and ready for students, whose parents endeavored this past year to show support for a program they say will improve their children's chances of academic success and bring Braintree in line with dozens of other Massachusetts communities.
Physically, the three classrooms at the high school are now set up for the pilot program, Superintendent Dr. Peter Kurzberg said, and teachers have been working over the summer to develop an expanded curriculum.
"The classrooms are finished," Kurzberg said. "In fact, they are putting the final coats of wax on the floors."
This coming Monday, Aug. 1, the first tuition payment is due. Families may pay the entire $3,000 cost per student upfront or pay in $300 monthly installments, Kurzberg said. On Sept. 1, at 7 p.m., parents are invited to attend orientation at the high school.
That information has reached full-day kindergarten families – there are 60 spots in all – via several communications channels, including email, voicemail and traditional mail. Kurzberg said his goal is to get an email address for every family throughout the Braintree school system.
The diversity of communication has been welcomed by parents, said Jen Longobardi, a mother who lobbied for the program last fall and whose daughter Sam will attend the program.
Longobardi has been maintaining a Facebook page called Braintree Full-Day Kindergarten throughout the summer to keep parents abreast of developments and keep connected a group that to get the pilot program set up.
"Our hope is that this page is a platform for the community during the year," Longobardi said. "It’s a new generation entering the school system. It’s kind of exciting.”
Kurzberg said he was glad to see so much support for the program after a couple of failed attempts to get full-day kindergarten in the past.
"Things are moving along very nicely," he said. "I think parents will be very happy. I’m looking forward to a great year.”
Preparation also extends to what parents can do to help their children succeed in a full-day learning environment.
Last fall, dozens of parents , urging School Committee members to create a full-day kindergarten option. They spoke of how important it was for their children to prepare for the next academic level and dropped pages of research on a folding table, fighting back against the idea that the program would be just public day care.
Marybeth Canwell, at an informal , said that she saw first-hand the problems of a half-day program.
Canwell said she went to her son's half-day afternoon program every Monday at about 12:45 to help with journaling. In the 30 minutes before she got there and after the students arrived, they had to squeeze in playtime, snack, picture drawing and sentence writing. Sometimes, at the end of the day, Canwell would find her son's snack still in his backpack.
"They have to choose eating a snack or finishing their work," she said.
Parents also pointed school officials toward the fact that Braintree was one of only 30 or so communities that didn't provide the option, out of more than 300. In January, the School Committee . A third classroom was added in February after a .
Curriculum at half-day and full-day programs will be identical, Flaherty principal Mary Struzziero , with the difference being in how much time students will have to practice concepts and teachers will have to reinforce them.
"What's going to be different in the full-day kindergarten is the gift of time," Struzziero said. "It's going to be a cozy kindergarten corner."
Students will be clustered as much as possible by the home school they will enter the following year, lunch will be served in the classrooms and recess will be taken in a grassy area near Town Street.
Since that meeting, and throughout the summer, Longobardi said she and other parents have been identifying skills their children should hone prior to entering the classroom.
With the help of research material posted on the full-day kindergarten Facebook page, parents have been guided to help their children write their own name, practice motor abilities like using glue, scissors and pencils, take in more complicated words, count, and interact in group settings.
Longobardi said she has tried to incorporate lessons for her daughter Sam into everyday life, such as writing her name in the sand at the beach and identifying flowers in the backyard.
"She’s very interested in practicing the alphabet and learning her name," Longobardi said. "Shes very exited to go a full day. She loves school."
If that type of interest in the full-day option grows, with parents as well as their kids, the program could expand beyond the three classrooms at the high school.
"I’m glad to see we have a relatively large number of parents who wish to participate," Kurzberg said.
The superintendent suggested that if full-day kindergarten could be made available in home schools, demand would increase even more.
Pam Kiley, a School Committee member who was a vocal advocate, said this spring that she'd like to see full-day kindergarten offered to all Braintree families at no cost.
"Now that we have it it's great," Longobardi said, "but I’d like to see the momentum going so it's not just for 60 kids.”