Residents to vote on full-day kindergarten

Administrators will present information for warrant article

MILFORD – Voters will have a chance to weigh in on full-day kindergarten next year.

The School Board is working on a plan for tuition-based, full-day kindergarten. At the board’s Sept. 19 meet­ing, administrators were asked to wrap up details and present information in a format suitable for a warrant article.

The cost for full-time kindergarten is tentative­ly set at $350 per month for 10 months. Board members had been con­cerned about fairness – of not offering the program to students whose fami­lies couldn’t afford it – so the plan calls for tuition to be waived for those who qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.

So far, the plans include five full-day classrooms serving up to 80 children, with a lottery for the slots. Based on the experience of nearby towns, board Chairman Paul Dargie said in an email, 80 slots might cover most of the demand.

There will also be four half-day classrooms for 64 students, with two ses­sions in the morning and two in the afternoon.

The warrant article will include costs, but that is still being cal­culated. Waiving fees is roughly estimated to total $53,000 a year, depend­ing on how many qualify, Dargie said, and the cost to outfit another room for kindergarten is estimat­ed between $75,000 and $100,000.

Staffing would increase from the current three full-time kindergarten teachers to five, with addi­tional part-time teachers and paraprofessionals.

No vote was taken, but board members are gen­erally supportive, Dargie said.

The idea for the pro­gram has expanded since last year, when Schools Superintendent Robert Marquis outlined a plan for one full-day session of full-day kindergarten.

New Hampshire was the last state to mandate school districts provide kindergarten, doing so in 2007. Milford has had kin­dergarten since 2009 and was one of the last school districts in the state to start one. Since then, full-day programs have been spreading around the state, and Amherst and Mont Vernon offer them.

Educators maintain that full-day kindergar­ten allows the children more time for art, music and physical education, with more time to prac­tice what they learn and to build social skills.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.