Area school districts differ in preschool participation
Students at Champions preschool play during recess Monday. Champions rents space in Willow Grove School from Kildeer Countryside Elementary District 96. | Ronnie Wachter~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2013 4:46PM
BUFFALO GROVE — They need more preparation upon arrival.
The need better social skills, more background knowledge and the ability to work both in groups and independently. Because this prep level has gone down in recent years, supervisors have had to perform more interventions.
This is not a setting in a suburban boardroom.
It is suburban kindergarten.
Around northwest Chicagoland, where most elementary school districts report static or growing preschool enrollment numbers, one Buffalo Grove district is seeing its participation shrink.
“Twenty-five percent of my kids did not go to preschool,” said Barb Cirigliano, principal of Willow Grove Kindergarten Center, the early-childhood building for Kildeer-Countryside Elementary District 96. “We have to give kids more time and support. We do a lot of interventions with them, and we have to give them more background knowledge.”
Betsy Fresen, District 96’s spokeswoman, said Kildeer-Countryside averaged 20 or 21 students per kindergarten class; in each of those groups, six or seven did not go to preschool, a figure that has more than doubled in recent years from two or three non-preschoolers per classroom. Cirigliano said the loss of preschoolers meant that teachers had to spend more time helping those who are new to group settings.
“They have to learn how to function in a classroom,” she said.
District 96 splits its preschool duties: it teaches its special-needs preschoolers itself, and rents space in Willow Grove to Champions, a for-profit, private preschool that takes in the other residents of the district. Robin Eisenstot, Champions’ area manager, said Monday that they had not seen any drop in enrollment.
“We’re seeing more people going back to work,” and needing help with the kids,” Eisenstot said. “We’re almost back to capacity for our after-school preschool programs.”
In Lincolnshire, District 103 spokeswoman Kim Sylvan said increasing enrollment forced them to add a second half-day kindergarten this fall. In Community Consolidated Elementary District 21’s Hawthorne Early Childhood Center, Principal Gwendolyn Rowe Gage said they had a waiting list.
“We are not seeing any downturn at all,” she said.
Back in District 96, Cirigliano said the cause of the downturn was simple: “Parents just can’t afford it.”