From Dr. Frank A. Tiano, Superintendent
As many of you know, the Chelmsford Public School District has had full-day kindergarten as a goal for many years. Over the past year, we had a Kindergarten Feasibility Committee researching how we could bring full-day kindergarten to our town. That committee included teachers, administrators, school committee member and parents. The committee diligently:
- reviewed academic research;
- conducted site visitations to districts that offer full-day programs;
- conducted a review of buildings and grounds to accommodate additional classrooms;
- conducted an audit of costs associated with implementation; conducted surveys of parents and staff about this option;
- explored, applied for and earned a $40,000 full-day kindergarten transition grant.
Based on what we gathered through our research, heard from constituents through surveys, learned from our peers in other districts who have gone through this process and valuable information we gained through working with an educational architect, we provided the Chelmsford School Committee with an outline of a proposal this past September. This proposal included free full-day kindergarten for all students. The sixteen classrooms would have two in each of the four elementary schools and eight newly created classrooms at the Community Education Building. The school committee voted for our feasibility committee to move forward with fleshing out this outline with more specifics.
In October, we presented this plan to the committee. The cost of implementation was over $900,000 dollars. After an exhaustive review at the state and local level, the manner in which to finance full-day kindergarten for all students for free in a sustainable way was not evident. In December, the committee asked us to come back with a plan that our district could afford within our operating budget. Though philosophically opposed by the school committee and administration, we discussed that this plan might include a fee-based system to ensure a sustainable funding mechanism.
Tuesday, January 7th, I presented an alternative plan that included 6 full-day classrooms at the Community Education building for a fee to parents for the full-year of $3,500. After a lengthy discussion and many questions, the committee felt that collectively we could not have a comprehensive plan in place that satisfied them educationally and financially before the end of January, which would be the cutoff date to inform, plan, budget and implement any version of a full-day kindergarten. Therefore, the school committee voted unanimously to not implement any full-day kindergarten programming for the 2014-2015 school year with the caveat that we continue to strive for the following year.
Moving forward, we have a vast amount of information to continue our process toward full-day kindergarten in Chelmsford. We will continue to work collaboratively within our school district and throughout the town and state for the remainder of this year and all of next year to reach our goal. My sincerest thanks go out to everyone who has participated in this process thus far.