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East Aurora scouts building for all-day kindergarten

Oak Park Elementary kindergarten students Alejandro Chavez Juan R. Gutierrez search for book during class Wednesday Oct. 09 2013. |

Oak Park Elementary kindergarten students Alejandro Chavez and Juan R. Gutierrez search for a book during class on Wednesday, Oct. 09, 2013. | Donnell Collins/For Sun-Times Media Donnell Collins

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Updated: November 28, 2013 6:29AM

AURORA — East Aurora School District is in the process of scouting buildings to house an all-day kindergarten program that officials say will open by next fall.

“It’s what we’ve felt could really move the scores up,” School Board President Annette Johnson said. “We think that will change the educational direction of this district.”

The full-day kindergarten program will be optional for parents. Under state law, East Aurora has to continue offering a half-day kindergarten program, though it is not mandatory for students to attend kindergarten of any kind.

East Aurora has 1,139 kindergarten students right now, who receive two hours and 55 minutes of instruction.

With a full-day program, kindergarten students will be on the same six-and-a-half-hour schedule as other elementary grades: from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

David Negron, the district’s director of elementary education, presented kindergarten program options to the School Board earlier this month.

He estimated it would cost $8 million for a new structure and that the district needed at least 24 additional classrooms to serve all kindergarten students at once.

Johnson said that price tag includes the estimated cost to purchase an existing building, renovate it and buy supplies and technology.

That sum will come out of the district’s reserves, Johnson said, and was approved to be spent this year as part of the district’s budget.

Johnson said the district is considering at least two privately owned buildings and is in the process of negotiating a purchase price. She said the district hopes to know which site it will choose by the end of November.

Once the building is purchased, she said, companies will bid on the construction work. The district needs to start construction by February or March 2014 to open on time for the start of next school year.

The district is studying how students will be transported to a centrally located kindergarten building and how the district will pay for that service.

It’s likely kindergarten students would meet at a centralized pick-up location that is within walking distance of their home, such as their home elementary school, and then be driven to the new kindergarten site.

The district also is looking into whether it can use some of its federal funding to pay for transportation, as it does for pre-kindergarten busing. It’s possible kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students would be on combined routes, Johnson said.

The opening of a new kindergarten building is expected to free up space in the elementary schools so that more pre-kindergarten students can attend early education programs.

Right now, 3-year-olds attend a program at the Early Childhood Center, located at 278 Indian Trail, while 4-year-olds are dispersed throughout elementary buildings.

Johnson said the district will continue to study how other districts run their kindergarten programs locally and will do outreach in the community to let parents know about the new offering.

It’s expected that new state funding will help the district offset some of the cost of buying a building and paying additional staff.

Negron estimated that the district could take in anywhere from $1.5 million more a year, if half of all kindergarten students participated in a full-day program, to $3.6 million per year, if all participated.

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