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Full-Day Kindergarten Discussion Continues



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Full-Day Kindergarten Discussion Continues

By Eliza Hallabeck &

Kendra Bobowick

Using next school year’s projected enrollment, Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson spoke to the space needs and costs surrounding the implementation of full-day kindergarten at the Board of Education’s meeting on Tuesday, November 16.

At the previous school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Linda Gejda gave a presentation to the school board on full-day kindergarten’s educational impact on students. On Tuesday, Dr Robinson said it was her responsibility to present the school board with any information she believes to be in the best interest of Newtown’s students.

Using adjusted projection enrollment figures, provided by H.C. Planning Consultants Inc of Orange, for the 2010-2011 school year, Dr Robinson said the district would need a total of eight new kindergarten teachers to provide full-day kindergarten to the town. The eight new hires, she said, would be offset by the removal of two teachers from the elementary schools level in next year’s budget, due to a projected decline in enrollment. Full-day kindergarten, she said, would also eliminate the need for the midday bus run that transports morning kindergarteners and afternoon kindergarteners to and from school.

The net gain of six teachers, Dr Robinson said, would cost $417,432. Dr Robinson continued to list costs associated with full-day kindergarten as $155,992 for an educational assistant in each new kindergarten classroom, and $10,768 for classroom furniture.

The potential elimination of transportation costs for the midday kindergarten runs, according to Dr Robinson, would decrease the implementation cost for full-day kindergarten by $276,794.

“The net cost for the education of just about 300 students is $307,398,” Dr Robinson said.

School board member Richard Gaines pointed out that cost represents about $1,000 for each kindergartener.

“From where I sit,” said Dr Robinson, “[the cost is] for an enhanced education for those 300 students.”

Board member David Nanavaty proposed phasing in full-day kindergarten, starting the program first at Head O’ Meadow and Sandy Hook School, where Dr Robinson had said earlier there is room for the needed classroom space.

At both Hawley and Middle Gate School, Dr Robinson said some moving around and inspection into building codes would need to happen before full-day kindergarten could begin.

At Hawley, Dr Robinson said, “What we are researching right now is whether that multipurpose room could be divided into two rooms.”

Hawley Elementary School uses the multipurpose room, located in the 1921 original section of the building, for special presentations and other events. At Middle Gate, she said other alternatives, like using the town-owned portables at Newtown High School that will not be needed once its addition and renovation are complete, are being looked into.

Phasing in the projects, Mr Nanavaty said, would allow for savings and give the district time to find space for the full-day program at Hawley and Middle Gate.

Tuesday’s discussion on full-day kindergarten was the school board’s second step in determining the feasibility of a full-day kindergarten program in the district. No decision was made during Tuesday’s meeting regarding full-day kindergarten, and Dr Robinson told the school board she will further research different costs associated, including phasing in the program.

Board of Education Chair William Hart said there are currently ten kindergarten classrooms throughout the district, and full-day kindergarten would require increasing that number to 18.

Board of Selectmen    Weigh In

The topic of full-day kindergarten also came up during the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Monday. The discussion centered on a letter First Selectman Pat Llodra wrote to Mr Hart regarding his board’s intentions to move forward in considering, and possibly initiating, full-day kindergarten in the district.

Mrs Llodra has pointed out that the school district’s work toward possible implementation of a program that would double its need for space is poorly timed. And she reiterated to finance officials that both the district and the community as a whole are currently inventorying facility space, while the town is also in the early stages of comprehensively examining future community and agency space needs. That study could include a recommendation of repurposing of school space for other uses, the first selectman said.

Last week the Board of Finance, in a 4-1 vote with one member absent, resolved to back First Selectmen Pat Llodra’s request to temporarily put the brakes on a full-day kindergarten initiative.

During the public participation portion of Monday’s Board of Selectman meeting, resident Robin Fitzgerald criticized the board as being “hypocritical,” noting that “decisions are being done without public participation.”

Speaking on the issue by phone, Selectman Will Rodgers said Tuesday morning, November 16, that Mrs Llodra “took an unfair hit for her letter to the BOE. Her letter was unfairly construed. It truly was a process concern and she was trying to do what the rabble wants — organize the planning. What she said is going to be construed as going to the substance; if anyone is deserving of a hit, it’s me. I did go for the substance.”

Selectman Bill Furrier said at Monday’s meeting he had a reaction Mrs Llodra’s letter, and describing his interpretation, he said, “we can’t tell the BOE what to do…”

“Excuse me, it wasn’t we, it was me,” Mrs Llodra responded, correcting Mr Furrier. “I issued the letter. I have a different role as the first selectman to develop a helicopter view, and I trust the community to make the best decision.”

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