There is still plenty of work left to be done, but the School Committee has taken the next step in what could be full-day kindergarten programs in Chelmsford.
On Tuesday night, the School Committee approved additional planning and investigation for the potential implementation of a full-day program, with the school department aiming to use the next year to work with the town on budgetary items as well as working with teachers on possible curriculum changes and professional development needed for the new programs.
Superintendent Dr. Frank Tiano presented the preliminary findings in the full-day kindergarten study to the board after investigating recently implemented programs in Georgetown, Shrewsbury and Andover.
Along with a subcommittee, Tiano told the board that no pilot program would be needed for the change which should come as soon as possible, and that a program should ideally be financially sustainable, eligible to all students, and located in students’ neighborhood schools.
The initial study brought forth three possible options: two full-day classes at the Chelmsford’s four elementary schools, eight full-day classes at the Westlands building in what would become a blended preschool/kindergarten early education style format, or a hybrid of those two options.
While shifting enrollment presented a potential problem for the first option, Tiano indicated that the second option would remove the “neighborhood school” preference. He also noted that rooms there would be smaller than state guidelines and possible minor expansions would be needed.
According to Tiano, the program would cost approximately $820,000 a year plus $78,000 in startup costs, although projected Chapter 70 funding from Beacon Hill would put average annual costs at $330,000 for the district.
While Chelmsford is only one of 20 school districts currently without some form of full-day public kindergarten, with the most recent attempt at implementation coming in 2008, budgetary constraints will provide a significant barrier to adding the program in Chelmsford.
“I don’t think there is anyone at this table who doesn’t want to have this,” said School Committee member Nick DeSilvio. “We just need to figure how out to do this.”