The Easton School Committee approved, 4-1, a proposal by the Early Childhood Committee to restructure Easton's kindergarten program to include a full-day option beginning next fall.
The restructuring will eliminate Easton's current Kindergarten Extended Day (KED) program: a tuition-based program that provides academic enrichment after the free half-day program. The tuition-free half-day will continue and KED teacher positions will become kindergarten positions.
The full-day program will cost $3,500, the same cost as KED.
Early Childhood Committee co-chairs Dr. Theresa Davenport and Principal Chris Getchell said the new structure will include theme-based, interdisciplinary learning from KED that "is so engaging and effective" for both half-day and full-day students.
"These kids should go home thrilled about learning and waiting to learn more," Getchell said.
Under the new program, half-day and full-day kindergarten will follow the same learning standards and expectations, and paraprofessionals would be used in both half-day and full-day classrooms, Davenport said.
Students will be assigned to one teacher in one room room with one paraprofessional and the same group of students all day. With KED, students switched to a different room and teacher after the half-day.
School Committee member Colleen Less, who voted against the proposal, was concerned about less "curriculum-based" learning for half-day students. She echoed concerns of many parents in the audience.
"We're giving some kids more of an opportunity to curriculum-based learning than others," Less said.
Getchell said that enrichment and curriculum could go hand-in-hand.
"I have not walked into a KED classroom and not seen our curriculum being addressed," he said.
Getchell and Davenport said the committee is looking to provide more scholarships and pursuing grant opportunities to lower costs for the tuition-based full-day program. They are also exploring options for tuition-free full-day Kindergarten.
"I just think we're evolving and this is the next step in the right direction," School Committee member Laurie Han said.
Parents are invited to a Parents Information Night Monday night at at 7 p.m.