BELMONT — Parents and Shaker Regional School Board members learned Tuesday night that adding full-day kindergarten and half-day pre-school program could add as much as $480,000 to the proposed 2015-2016 school district budget.
The costs include two additional teachers, additional buses, and a two, used modular units for classroom space and Superintendent Maria Dreyer said they were "guestimates" at this point.
Dreyer pointed out that the school board and the administration did a "great deal of listening" at an information public information session held earlier this month and learned that parents want full-day kindergarten as opposed to the planned half-day kindergarten and half-day pre-school programs incorporated into one version of the 2015 budget.
Parents packed the Middle School media center Tuesday evening to show support for full-day kindergarten.
Of the four who spoke, seemingly for the rest of the crowd, three were teachers.
Lisa Tucker said kindergarten today is like first grade was when she was in school and with half-day kindergarten only, children lose nine hours of instructional time weekly.
She agreed that pre-kindergarten programs were a "great thing," but said only providing a half a day of kindergarten was a "disservice" to the children.
"They're missing all of the afternoon time," Tucker said.
Parent Lisa Ober, a teacher for 15 years, said there are too many "transitions" with half-day kindergarten. Transitions means a child is home, then in kindergarten for 2 1/2 hours, then in some kind of transportation, then daycare, and then back home again.
She said full-day kindergarten eliminates many of those transitions that she believe can be too many adjustments for a 5-year-old to process.
The problems with implementing full-day kindergarten in Shaker Regional in 2015 in the two elementary schools are multi-faceted.
The first is space. While there is room for full-day kindergarten at Canterbury Elementary School, Dreyer said at Tuesday's meeting, there is not room in Belmont Elementary.
There is a "bubble", or unusually high number of students, in the second and third grades and Dreyer's original two-year plan called for implementing pre-kindergarten in 2015 and working toward full-day kindergarten as the "bubble" moves through elementary school, freeing up much needed space.
Additionally, because of the number of students taking the bus, Dreyer said two additional buses would be needed to accommodate approximately 80 additional students in the afternoon run. The cost of the two additional buses would eat up any potential savings for eliminating the mid-day run.
In Canterbury, there would be some savings because no additional buses would be needed and the mid-day run could be eliminated.
To accommodate the space challenges at Belmont Elementary, the school would need to site a two-classroom modular for two years and rearrange a number of programs and classrooms so that the older children would likely be in the modular. The modular would also cost the school the basketball court which would be needed for parking.
The second issue is political. School Board member Donna Cilley of Belmont said she feels like the school district is treating the full-day kindergarten issue as an "emergency" when it really isn't.
She said the district was reacting to the parents, which is good, but that the district already has a two-year plan and that Dreyer's newest plan for both was a 12th-hour reaction without a solid picture.
"Here we are at the 12th hour talking about a very important program," Cilley said. "It needs to be done right."
Canterbury School Board member Bob Reed said the issue is an emergency for parents. "All these years parents have been thinking they're getting all day-kindergarten and we drop the bomb on them for pre-k," he said.
The third issue is money. Dreyer's two-year plan that called for a half-day of pre-school and a half-day of kindergarten was not going to cost the school district any additional money in 2015. As it stands now, the proposed budget was slightly less than the $21-million total budget approved by voters last year.
To implement full-day kindergarten and half-day of pre-school the cost is "guestimated" to be about $480,000. To implement full-day kindergarten and eliminate the pre-kindergarten program would cost about $90,000 less, said Dreyer when asked.
The School Board was slated to vote on a final proposed budget for 2015 Tuesday but made a unanimous decision to hold a special meeting Monday at 10 a.m. for a final vote on the budget.
Before adjourning, the School Board instructed Dreyer to develop more solid numbers and design programs that would incorporate pre-k, full-day kindergarten and a combination of the two.
Monday is a holiday, however the meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. in the SAU Building.
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