In August, 2005, and with the addition of new classrooms at Betsy Ross and Field-Stevenson Schools, universal all-day kindergarten will become a reality for District 91 and Forest Park.

The new facilities, which began construction last summer, will have the ability to serve between 160 and 180 students in senior kindergarten.

The additions to Betsy Ross School include two classrooms, a new boy’s bathroom, a faculty bathroom, faculty workroom and a new kitchen facility.

At Field-Stevenson School the additions include four classrooms, with a two-story addition that contains two rooms on each floor.

Superintendent Randolph Tinder informed board members during Thursday’s meeting that there will continue to be one all-day class at Grant-White School and one at Garfield School.

The new additions, he said, will allow the district to add two, possibly three classes each at Betsy Ross and Field-Stevenson Schools.

“This is close to double what we have now,” Tinder said. “We think we’ll get quite a few more kids in all-day.

“I think now, having all-day kindergarten, we’re going to have more kids and we’ll keep them,” he said.

Universal all-day kindergarten has been a goal for the district, its superintendent and its school board for several years.

“I have implemented all-day kindergarten in all four districts I have served in,” Tinder said. “The sooner we can get them in school and get them in a formal education setting, the sooner kids will begin to benefit from that.

“It is not a pressured academic environment, it is a more relaxed pace than what he have squeezed into half-day [kindergarten,]” he said. “It is not unusual for all of our kindergarten kids to be reading in our all-day program. It just happens because of the environment that they are in.”

The district has been phasing in all-day kindergarten for the last three years.

Project implementation began during the 2001-2002 school year with one classroom at Grant-White School, then expanded to another class at Garfield, finally adding a third class at Betsy Ross School in the 2004-2005 school year.

“We chose Grant-White because, academically, tests scores showed Grant-White’s population was our neediest population,” Tinder said. “Plus they had the space available at that time.”

Next year, with six brand new classrooms, the project will be completed and all district schools will be providing the service, with class sizes limited to 20 students each.

Tinder said he and his staff are considering moving registration for the classes to a Saturday to accommodate the parents’ busy schedules and that he wants to begin the registration before the schools are out this year.

At Thursday’s meeting board members also discussed continuing education, recommended a one-year extension with Independent Risk Managers, Inc., the district’s  insurance consulting firm, and received a report from Tinder regarding residency investigations.

“There are currently 29 investigations, which is about average,” Tinder said. “Of those, 15 have been cleared, nine transferred out and two others were cleared to the end of the year.”

Board members also moved to approve a one-year extension with the district’s insurance risk management firm, provided the firm removes an automatic renewal clause in the contract.

Tinder informed board members that the firm would play an important role next year, as the district renegotiates its medical and dental insurance carriers.

In the past, he said, the firm helped save more money than they cost the district .

“In the last year we saved $5,372 and they cost us $4,000,” Tinder said.

Finally, board members agreed to move forward with a board development program offered by the Illinois Association of School Boards.

The program, called Targeting Achievement through Governance (TAG) provides board members with a grant from the Illinois State Board of Education to assist boards of education in districts where schools have failed to meet adequate yearly progress goals.

At least four members have committed to attend and participate in a series of professional development activities over 18 months, at no cost to the district.

The grant provides classes and instruction valued at over $9,000.