8:04 p.m. to 8:24 p.m. (64:00 to 84:00)
In the “Old Business” section, the Committee began with a look at an update on Full Day Kindergarten, with Superintendent Dr. Frank Tiano beginning with a review of some key points from an earlier presentation at an earlier meeting. (power
Tiano then provided an overview of the current configuration of the building that is expected to house the full day kindergarten program at the Westlands School on Dalton Road, with the Community Education program likely having to move out along with the LIONS Pride program.
After benefits and drawbacks to the program, Tiano set his goals for next year (also previously mentioned) and said that it will cost approximately $858,000 for new staff and $22,000 for furniture as well as approximately $68,000 in curriculum development, while full day kindergarten would save approximately $13,000 in transportation, with that savings potentially doing what drives the project.
If the Community Education program needs to move, it is expected that they would lose approximately $11,000.
In terms of enrollment, the district is currently declining, but not by a significant amount and that new students are still moving into the district.
On how to pay for the program, it is expected that school choice students and foreign students paying out of town rates along with recurring grants, Chapter 70 increases expected if the program proceed and other grants, accounting for approximately $535,000 of the amount.
The town would have to pay for approximately $250,000 of the total amount, although that amount would not be set in stone depending on potential cost savings.
Tiano said that next Monday, he will be meeting with the Selectmen and Finance Committee, where the topic will be discussed.
8:24 p.m. to 8:59 p.m. (84:00 to 119:00)
DiSilvio asked a question regarding if an older sibling of a kindergartener would be able to go with their younger sibling on the bus, with Tiano saying this has not yet been determined, although Tiano hopes that siblings can be kept together on school buses if at all possible.
Thoren continued saying that she had heard in discussions that siblings going with each other is preferable, although Rigney indicated it may not be possible to guarantee that.
Skaar indicated it might be a mixed bag depending on some parents who want half-day kindergarten programs in their neighborhoods or may have children already going to CHiPs.
It was indicated that other districts have had struggles on this front, and that North Reading transportation can provide alternatives, although additional research will need to be done, with DiSilvio asking this issue be kept on the forefront since a significant amount of parents had asked him about this.
DiSilvio asked about where Community Education would be placed, with Tiano saying the kindergarten proposal only impacts day classes currently at the Westlands School and office space at the Westlands School, night classes at the Westlands School could continue, and Community Education already has some programs at Chelmsford High School.
Thoren asked another question regarding possible ideas for cost cutting to help facilitate the budgeting needed for this program. Tiano said there may be a reduction on support staff, which would not be ideal, but the committee would need to decide how badly the town wants free full-day kindergarten with master’s degree trained educators.
DiSilvio indicated that in terms of cost savings, the likely maximum would be around $100,000; adding that it would take an extra million dollars a year from the town, with Monday’s FinCom/Selectmen discussion helping to determine the town’s view on whether it might provide that.
Skaar then asked a question elaborating on the foreign students and school choice students that would make a significant amount of the funding for the program, with business manager Kathy Williams providing an explanation on both fronts, saying that the foreign students are not foreign exchange students and they can only stay for one year.
DiSilvio then said that the decision ultimately depends on Town Meeting, and that while the committee is in favor, the committee could not get the amount of money out of its budget every year for this program.
Workbooks and classbooks are in place if the program comes into fruition.
Rigney indicated that he believed that benefits cost seemed low.
Thoren asked if there would be any financial hits in the new teachers’ contract that would impact the funding needed for the program, with discussion ensuing on topics such as support services and yearly variations on benefits.
School Committee member Allan Thomas said that early in the discussion there will be a question from the community on whether there should be fees.
Some other communities do, with the average being around $3,500.
If a fee is instituted, half-day would have to be provided and that may provide logistical problems in terms of bussing.
Rigney indicated that $3500 would be a new tax on school age parents.
Skaar said no matter what the decision, the importance of early life education needed to be taken into account.
Rigney then asked what would happen if nothing happen, as Chelmsford is only of only 12 districts in the state without full day kindergarten, and that waiting would not make it any easier, although Thoren said she did not believe any mandates were coming.
Discussion continued relating to fees and how it impacts under-privileged families.
DiSilvio asked if there might be a smaller amount of staff, with the discussion then going to the quality of the potential program.
Thomas said that the committee’s position should be that tuition is free.