These NJ school districts still don’t offer free full-day kindergarten
🖍 Full-day Kindergarten is not universal in NJ schools
🏫 A few districts still hold drawings and require tuition
🚌 Some towns lack full-day K, as NJ pre-K programs expand
As of this season, more New Jersey schools than ever have begun to offer free, full-day preschool programs, which are now at more than 260 public districts.
Some of the districts are launching programs by January 2024 after being awarded state funding toward universal preschool.
To be eligible for such pre-k funding, districts must first offer full-day kindergarten. However, full-day school for students younger than 5 has not been made a state requirement. The only exception has been the requirement for full-day K programs at the former Abbott school districts.
Why is there no universal full-day kindergarten in NJ?
State legislative efforts to make full-day kindergarten universal around NJ have failed over the past several years.
It’s been a slow improvement — interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic — since 2018 when about 40 districts still lacked full-day kindergarten programs.
The New Jersey School Board Association has said that while it believes that full-day kindergarten programs benefit students, it should not be mandated by the state unless state funds are provided to meet the need for necessary additional facilities and staff.
There has been increasing resident demand. state education officials said "nearly all" of the more than 590 operating public school districts have switched to full-day kindergarten.
Among the handful of highly regarded districts that have not yet made the change, one community has it facing voters in the November election.
Metuchen passed a referendum last fall to add full-day kindergarten. The borough follows surrounding Edison, which launched its township-wide full-day program in September 2022.
Moorestown Township Public Schools has continued to offer two options for kindergarten — a half-day, morning session only and a tuition-based, extended day option via a lottery system.
Haddonfield was one of just a handful of NJ public school districts that still have not added free, full-day kindergarten.
“Although the academic benefits are recognized, space has been a barrier in expanding Haddonfield's program to a full day," the district said, according to the Cherry Hill Courier Post.
Cranford has continued to offer half-day kindergarten sessions, either morning or afternoon as well as two full-day, tuition-based kindergarten classes that enroll via lottery.
Westfield has not offered full-day kindergarten, instead running a half-day session and “Kindergarten Wrap” as a tuition-based, lottery program.
Last fall, New Providence announced full-day kindergarten would launch this school year.
Chatham has offered a tuition-based, full-day kindergarten program by lottery since fall 2019. For the current year, families of 80 kindergarteners pay $7,000 for the year, as reported by NJ.com.
Borough school officials have vowed to work on adding full-day kindergarten, according to Patch, without a concrete plan in place.
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