Milford mulls kindergarten
Tuition program might begin in 2017
MILFORD – A full-day kindergarten program, with the additional half day paid for by parents, is being considered by the School Board.
At last week’s board meeting, Schools Superintendent Robert Marquis outlined a program with 32 students in two full-time sessions and an annual tuition cost of $3,602 per student.
Marquis and board Chairman Paul Dargie are in favor of expanding the program for the youngest learners, but the board hasn’t yet taken a vote.
"My sense is that the board supports it in general," Dargie said later in an email.
Several parents at the meeting said they were pleased and excited.
"Bravo," Bob Thompson said, because "thousands of research studies" show the value of full-day programs for 5-year-olds.
Parents and board members, however, said they’re concerned about the issue of fairness: some 5-year-olds having this enrichment opportunity while the children of parents who can’t afford it wouldn’t have the same opportunity.
Board member Len Mannino questioned how to make a decision that only benefits families that have more resources, since the data shows the benefits of all-day kindergarten.
Marquis agreed it was a moral issue and mentioned the possibility of scholarships.
Board member Robert Willette said he has several concerns, including the impact of public kindergarten on private kindergarten programs.
The board will discuss details before it votes, Dargie said, including whether to put costs in a separate warrant article or add them to the operating budget.
Whether to have two classrooms or three is another issue.
There are 137 kids in the current half-day program, and there is enough room in Jacques Memorial School for two more classrooms. The school was designed so a second story could be added, Dargie said, and in the short term, portable classrooms could be used.
The intent is to make the program self-funding, he said, but all of the costs haven’t yet been calculated.
Although the state has been providing aid for kindergarten since it mandated half-day programs several years ago, the aid doesn’t cover a full day.
According to Marquis’ report, the full-day students would get physical education, art and music instruction, and reading and writing skills practiced in dramatic play. Teachers would engage the students in project-based learning to "discover answers to real-world questions."
Mont Vernon and Amherst now have free full-day kindergarten programs. Although Amherst voters in 2015 rejected a $620,000 warrant article to expand the program, administrators said it was a high priority, and they fit the costs into their operating budget. Mont Vernon administrators said declining enrollments allowed them to fit more kindergarten classes and cover the costs.
Brookline has a tuition full-day program, while Wilton-Lyndeborough has half day.
In 2009, New Hampshire began requiring every school district to offer half-day kindergarten, the last state to do that.
According to the New Hampshire Department of Education, the trend toward full-day kindergarten began soon afterward. By 2013-14, the last school year for which data is available, the number of school districts offering it had grown to 83.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.