Starting in September, the Mineola school district will offer full-day pre-kindergarten classes at all three of its elementary schools.
Currently, full-day pre-K exists only at the Willis Avenue School for 54 students selected from a lottery and funded by the state. The Board of Education discussed offering additional classes at its business meeting on Thursday night.
Half-day pre-K also currently exists at the Hampton Street and Meadow Drive schools. Parents will have the option of selecting either a half day or full day when signing children up for classes.
“Educational research clearly demonstrates that high-quality early childhood education improves learning outcomes for students immediately and extends throughout the student’s educational career,” School Superintendent Michael Nagler said in tweet the following morning.
Half-day pre-K will still be offered at both the Hampton Street and Meadow Drive schools, but not Willis Avenue. As of now, four sections will be dedicated at both schools for morning and afternoon half-day sessions, as well as full six-hour days. Preschoolers will arrive later and be dismissed earlier than the rest of the students.
Some parents said over the last few years that they don’t want full-day pre-K, but there has been support, too, Nagler said.
“I don’t think it’s fair to eliminate a program that exists that people want, so now we have to balance half-day, full-day, who wants which and, most importantly, we have no idea yet how many children are going to be in the program,” Nagler said. “The first year, there are a lot of unknowns we need to account for.”
There is also no plan to bus children to pre-K starting in September. This is a service the district currently provides, so it will be a “big change,” according to Nagler.
“I’m not completely abandoning the notion of busing but I think the first year out it’s wise not to and then see how it progresses,” Nagler said. “There are a lot of complications with busing we probably don’t need the first year.”
The district is in the process of establishing three separate attendance zones for determining which school pre-K children will attend based on proximity to their households. The zones will be determined by July, according to the district. Nagler pointed out that in relation to the new attendance zones, children within a half mile of their assigned school wouldn’t receive busing anyway.
Registration for half- or full-day pre-K will open Feb. 5 and run until May 3. Those interested in enrolling their child, who must be 4 years old by Dec. 31, 2019, can contact the district registrar for information.
“I would hope parents would recognize the opportunity this is going to provide their children,” board President Christine Napolitano said.
Also at the meeting, Matthew Gaven, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, technology and assessment, presented an update on the district’s “Growth Mindset” initiative, a board goal for the year implemented at all schools.
Growth mindset language can be found everywhere on doors and bulletin boards in the schools, Gaven said. Teachers have also provided explicit lessons on neural plasticity, the brain’s ability to change over the course of a lifetime and goal setting. Students have been encouraged to learn from their mistakes and reminded that growth is a process, Gaven said.
He also announced that a documentary on the district, titled “The Process” is now complete and early reception as been exceedingly positive.
The 121-minute documentary, compiled from over six terabytes and hundreds of hours of content, will premiere sometime in March. Clips and a trailer for the documentary are available on the district’s YouTube channel, Mineola Creative Content. The documentary also has potential to serve as an educational resource, Gaven said.
“We think that this is not just a good story for us in terms of Mineola and how it worked documenting our story, but we think this adds something to the overall educational conversation for educational professionals about how the brain science behind growth mindset can help you work with students in your classroom,” Gaven said.
The board will meet again on Thursday, Jan. 24.