BRISTOL — Candidates running for the Board of Education in the Nov. 3 election gave their thoughts on kindergarten entrance age at a political forum earlier this month sponsored by the Bristol Federation of Teachers and the Bristol Parent Teacher Organization.

The teachers’ union and the PTA together came up with the questions. Two candidates from each party were randomly chosen to respond to each question.

Each candidate had two minutes to talk about the kindergarten entrance age and how a Connecticut child entering kindergarten at four years of age compares to a child from a different state who entered at age five or five and a half

∎ Joe Grabowski, Democrat.

Grabowski said that “in an ideal world” Connecticut would have universal pre-kindergarten.

“Statistically when you have a child start school earlier they tend to do better down the road in their educational experience,” he said. “Younger minds can absorb and learn much more in that key developmental period.”

Starting school at an earlier age also helps children become more comfortable with the school environment, he said.

∎ Jennifer Dube, Republican, incumbent.

Connecticut highly recommends that children start school early but it does leave it up to parents to decide if their child is school ready, she said. “I believe that the ultimate choice should reside with the family.”

Bristol administers kindergarten assessments to determine skills levels and emotional readiness before students enter kindergarten “but parents who feel that their child may not be ready can opt for continued pre-K,” she said.

Dube noted that she herself was an October baby who entered kindergarten at age four, graduated high school at 17, and started her professional career at age 20, adding “I’m glad I started early, it was a benefit to me.”

∎ Tina Taylor, Democrat.

Taylor stressed that every child is different and there is no universal standard that applies to all children. What is important is how ready a child is for school, not the month he or she was born in, she said.

She agreed that it should continue to be up to parents to decide if a child is ready for kindergarten, noting that universal pre-kindergarten would help insure that children are ready and able to adjust to the school environment.

“As a teacher I’ve honestly found that it is my 6-year-olds, my oldest kindergarten students, that have the hardest time adjusting to school,” she said. “Maybe that’s just the way it’s been in my classrooms, but the younger children seem to adjust a little better, they also seem to achieve a little bit more.”

∎ Genard Dolan, Republican, incumbent vice chairman.

“Our current law in Connecticut is that you are permitted to enter school at age four as long as you turn five by Jan. 1,” he said. “The law also states that you must enter first grade, and can skip kindergarten, by age 7. That’s pretty loose.”

Dolan said that he was a premature baby born at 7 months gestation, and he wondered if even another month in the womb would have been beneficial for his future education development.

“This illustrates the complexity of the question — one that I don’t feel that I qualify to answer,” he said.

However, everybody in Bristol is encouraged to enroll their children in pre-school programs, “because the early education is beneficial — and that’s not a theory, that’s been proven,” he added.

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-584-0501 ext. 1802 or scorica@bristolpress.com.

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