Del Mar school board considers full year of full-day kindergarten

The DMUSD office building in Torrey Hills.
(Karen Billing)

A special meeting was held on Aug. 4 to consider Del Mar Union School District Trustee Katherine Fitzpatrick’s request to extend full-day kindergarten offerings for the district’s youngest students, starting with the first day of school on Aug. 15.

Currently, the first six weeks of school are minimum days for kinders—they are out at 12:30 p.m. rather than 2:30 p.m. in order to provide time for teachers to assess their new students.

At the board’s July 27 regular meeting, Fitzpatrick made the request for an alternative schedule of full-day kindergarten. She said she understood the benefit of assessing students on a personal level but her concern was with what students are doing when they are not in the classroom that first six weeks.

“It’s about 60 hours and I think it’s valuable for them to be in class learning and participate in enriching activities during that time,’ Fitzpatrick said, noting that assessments could be done concurrently with an additional credentialed substitute teacher in the classroom.

Fitzpatrick said another reason for modifying the kindergarten schedule was to ease the burden it may place on families who then require supplemental childcare for those first six weeks. The district does offer after-school care at $80 a week plus a $70 registration fee, for a total of $550 for the first six weeks of the school year : “It’s at a cost and we’re not a private school district.”

At the board’s request, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Shelley Petersen said staff explored the possible shift on a very short timeline—just a week out from the first day of school. As there are 21 kindergarten classrooms, the plan would require the hiring of 21 substitute teachers to support student assessment time at a cost of $115,605, coming from 2022-23 Learning Recovery Emergency Block Grant state funding.

“I agree with board member Fitzpatrick that early education is highly valuable and children do deserve to be in school for the length of the instructional day,” said Petersen. She noted, however, that this is not typically the way they make a shift like this in the district, usually trying to work collaboratively with teachers to find a solution.

Petersen said for the staff members she was able to reach, the greatest concern was the very short timeline as many have already developed schedules, with great care that children feel successful and supported in those first weeks.

“They highly value the six-week assessment period and had concerns with substitutes, speaking to how important consistency is as they begin with new kindergarten students and establishing that routine,” Petersen said.

Del Mar California Teachers Association President Kevin Cunha also provided input from his position that there were concerns about the short timeline and the inability for the majority of teachers to provide input. Petersen said if directed by the board, she recommended that they begin the process again in December if they wanted to achieve 180 days of full-day kindergarten by the start of the 2023-24 school year.

Fitzpatrick shared her frustration that the district had not completed outreach to parents on their thoughts on full-day kindergarten, given she had brought up the issue to staff back in May.

“I would like to see this district being more proactive about things like this, rather than me having to bring that to your attention,” Fitzpatrick said.

Full-day kindergarten aligns with the state’s priority and focus on early childhood education. Under the proposed Assembly Bill 1973, school districts would be required to offer full-day kindergarten programs to all students, starting in the 2025-26 school year. Additionally, Senate Bill 70 would make kindergarten mandatory, requiring all students to complete a year in kindergarten before entering first grade to ensure children are prepared for elementary school. This bill passed in the senate in a bipartisan vote and awaits a state assembly vote.

With the senate bills coming down and transitional kindergarten being expanded throughout the state, Fitzpatrick said she would like to see more engagement with parents and families on these topics.

Overall the board was supportive of the idea of 180 days of full -day kindergarten but shared the concerns about the tight timeline, instead opting to aim for 2023-24, flushing out the program more with teachers and getting input from all stakeholders.

“I’ve gotten the sense that we’re all in favor of this but doing it now is too quick, too soon,” said board member Scott Wooden. “I personally think we should spend our time and do it next year and do it right.”

Board approves superintendent, assistant superintendents new contracts
At the Del Mar Union School District’s July 27 meeting, the board approved the ratifications of employment agreements for their executive cabinet.

Superintendent Holly McClurg’s agreement was extended from June 30, 2025 to June 30, 2026. The 4% increase based on salary and longevity that was added for the 2021-22 school year will become an ongoing increase resulting in an annual salary of $272,085. All other terms of her contract remained the same.

The same extensions were applied to the district’s three assistant superintendents: Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Shelley Petersen’s salary increased to $213,169, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Chris Delehanty to $192,400, and Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Ryan Stanley to $187,200 annually.