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Should Chelmsford Pursue Full-Day Kindergarten?

What's your take?

The School Committee has been discussing the topic of requesting funding for full-day kindergarten in recent meetings in September, November and this week, and it is beginning to appear that the School Committee will ask Town Meeting for funding in a proposal that will focus half-day and full-day kindergarten classes at the Westlands School, shifting Community Education elsewhere.

However, as Chelmsford's tax rate continues to rise, the question remains whether voters accept what School Committee member Nick DiSilvio indicated would be nearly $1 million extra per year in added costs for the school budget each year.

Today, we want to pose that question to you: is full-day kindergarten an inherent right for all Chelmsford children just like schooling at higher levels is, is it a luxury that the town can't afford, or do half-day programs work just as well for little ones still getting acclimated to a school environment?

For that matter, would Chelmsford voters accept an override vote to afford full-day kindergarten like Wellesley and Rockport

Is a tuition-based approach best? It's common along the I-495 belt, but the School Committee is opposed to it, seeing it as a tax shouldered only by specific families.

And on the other hand, would Chelmsford be losing out if it does not invest in full-day kindergarten? One key attribute for any new resident when looking for a town is the quality of its school system, and reports from the National Education Association indicate that for every $1 spent on kindergarten, society sees a net return of $3 or even higher. 

So today, we ask you -- what's your take? Tell us in the comments. 
Terri Anstiss December 05, 2013 at 01:58 PM
My observation: Yes, it is a long time coming. Providing free, equal and appropriate public education to ALL Chelmsford children (regardless of income!) at the kindergarten level should be accepted as a *social responsibility* rather than viewed as a "tax burden." I hope that all residents of all ages and town officials will think about how our schools, from K thru 12 (including Special Education!) fit into the big picture of our "global economy" and not just our town budget. It would be more appropriate in today's world to have full day kindergarten available to all children in Chelmsford. Increased academic expectations, standards and more complex social needs have placed the burden on teachers to do almost superhuman things in the course of a school day, week, school year. The K teachers are further pressed to try to teach full day curriculum needs in a half day time slot (about 3 hours?), while also nurturing the equally important social and emotional needs of children transitioning from preschool to grade school. The stress and pressure of this reality will continue to grow and trickle down to our kids. Kids will be academically and emotionally less-prepared to meet the ever-increasing demands in each subsequent grade. Is this what we want? Let's be kind to our K teachers, and all our teachers in the long run, and give them the needed time to provide the instruction and resources they are expected to provide, according to state and federal guidelines. Our kids will be more likely to experience success if they are appropriately prepared right from the beginning. Our schools are to some degree a reflection of our town's values. Thank you.
Keith Stuart December 05, 2013 at 10:42 PM
I agree. Ask the first grade teachers about what they have to deal with having to hold kids to the same standards as other schools in the state when their students come into their classrooms without having the same level of education. They are still expected to teach to the same level by the end of the school year.
Chris Gregoire December 06, 2013 at 09:35 AM
As a father of 2 young children who recently moved to town, I couldn't agree more. If necessary my wife and I could afford to put our daughters into full day kindergarten when the time comes, but not everyone is so fortunate. It is in the best interest of the entire town that all kids are given the same opportunity to succeed in first grade that children in the rest of the state are.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) December 06, 2013 at 10:19 AM
Comments have been deleted due to violations of the terms of use.
Vincent DiRico December 06, 2013 at 06:00 PM
Westford does NOT have full day (not sure about future plans), so "children in the rest of the state" is NOT correct. After full day K the libs will be after half day pre-K, then full day pre-K, ... eventually you will just hand your kids over at the hospital and possibly be granted weekend visits. priceless!
Anna Bucciarelli December 06, 2013 at 07:53 PM
Welcome Vinnie:) I am so ambivalent about this whole full-day K business. I keep thinking of little ones falling asleep a half second after lunch ... some are still napping. I see the opportunity it allows for working parents not to have to pay for daycare, so I fully understand. I also understand that some people seem to think kids get a good head start to 1st grade by having full-day K. But here's the thing I struggle with ... my assumption was always that K was preparatory to 1st grade, an opportunity to learn proper social skills and behavior, basic numbers and alphabet, perhaps a smattering of reading but for readiness purposes. I am open, tho, since I know times have changed and are forever changing. I also struggle mightily with the assumption that every HS kid should aim for higher ed. or he/she will end up a failure. I think there is entirely too much emphasis placed on this and that the world needs all sorts of people, including perhaps more in important trades. For goodness sake, let's take some of the pressure and stress off the kids and their parents and allow for all possibilities. As to full-time K ... I'm just not sure but, as I said, I'm open.
Paul December 07, 2013 at 09:32 AM
@Vincent Couldn't agree more. This will open up the floodgate of parents eyeing this a an opportunity to save money on their existing day care and/or give them more R&R time. It will pass folks. Simple majority rule.
Anna Bucciarelli December 07, 2013 at 02:42 PM
Paul and Vinnie ... you may be (probably are) right ... the floodgate will open to full preschool for sure and I do think full K is a done deal. I'm having a hard time reconciling the benefits vs. quality time spent with parents and sibs. There is lot to be said and much to learn right in the bosom of family. We seem to keep pushing kids to succeed at an even earlier age these days. I exempt myself from this, however, like to think I don't push for anything from kids but what they can and are geared to give. I know that some need a nudge but never a push.

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