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Full-Day Kindergarten Rejected



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Full-Day Kindergarten Rejected

By Eliza Hallabeck

Noting what Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson called a “precarious budget,” the Board of Education decided not to institute full-day kindergarten for the 2012-13 school year during its special meeting on Wednesday, July 18.

At the start of the meeting school district Director of Business Ronald Bienkowski shared a memorandum from July 16 noting an additional $120,945 needed to cover special education costs during the next school year.

With that figure added into the 2012-13 budget, a sheet handed out during the school board’s meeting listed $238,876 would be needed to establish full-day kindergarten this fiscal year.

Later during the meeting, when asked for suggestions on where to find the roughly $239,000 in the budget by BOE member John Vouros, Dr Robinson said, “The reason you don’t see suggestions for the [$239,000] is because I don’t know what they are.”

Each school board member noted supporting full-day kindergarten as the best option for students, and each member expressed regret in not being able to afford the program for the 2012-13 school year.

Mr Vouros said he was at a loss as to how the school board would cover the $239,000 “without cutting existing programs.”

School board Chair Debbie Leidlein noted the cut to existing programs would be greater now, with the $239,000 factored in.

Dr Robinson called herself an advocate of full-day kindergarten, and said this was the perfect year to start offering it.

“We don’t have the money now,” Dr Robinson said later, “and I am heartbroken.”

When school board Secretary Cody McCubbin asked whether full-day kindergarten could be offered to parents who would want to cover the additional cost, Dr Robinson said the school district cannot charge for academic programs.

“I find it very unfortunate that we are not allowed to go down that road,” said Mr McCubbin.

Sharing his support for full-day kindergarten, board member William Hart also said beginning the program in the 2012-13 school year would be a financial risk.

“To pare it down this low is very risky,” Mr Hart said.

If the school board decides to institute a full-day program for the 2013-14 school year, Mr Hart said it will again face an uphill battle.

“I just want to say how disappointed I am,” said board member Keith Alexander.

Calling full-day kindergarten a “critical kick-start for the kids,” Mr Alexander said it would be important to start advocating for a 2013-14 school year implementation of full-day kindergarten as early as this September.

“We can’t let this happen again,” said Mr Alexander. “This is too important.”

After deciding not to move forward with full-day kindergarten, the school board approved adjustments to the 2012-13 budget to cover a $242,558 balance, based on reductions made to the budget since the board passed it at the start of the budget process.

Those adjustments include using existing funds to cover the cost of high school athletic trips, removing bonds associated with the All-Star Transportation and MTM Transportation contracts, removing a part-time music position at Sandy Hook School based on enrollment, reducing the cost for instructional supplies, and more. Originally, the Board of Education’s listed budget adjustments options included removing an elementary teacher position, but the school board chose to keep that position, leaving roughly $29,000 for Mr Bienkowski to find within further budget adjustments.

Wednesday’s meeting was the first time the school board met following the fifth round budget referendum on Thursday, July 12. That vote passed a $106,246,838 budget, representing an overall tax increase of 0.69 percent. The school board’s budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year is $68,355,794.

A PDF version of the spreadsheet shared at the school board’s Wednesday, July 18, meeting is available with this story at www.newtownbee.com.

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