Proposal for full-day public kindergarten on warrant

MILFORD – School officials have backed away from a plan to have taxpayers help subsidize a new full-day public kindergarten program.

Instead, costs for the program will come from increased tuition.

The pilot program will have places for a maximum of 80 5-year-olds in five full-time sessions at a cost of about $510 a month.

At their Dec. 19 meeting, School Board members had said they were concerned the warrant article would fail. Now the tuition, which had previously been set at $340 a month, will go up to $510 to pay for an estimated 20 students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

The warrant article calls for extending some sessions of the kindergarten program to all day, but the School Board expects tuition fees to offset the cost.

Schools Superintendent Robert Marquis said the tuition is competitive with private kindergartens.

“We looked at the cost of comparable programs, and it’s well within the ballpark,” he said.

Parents can still choose half-day kindergarten. Four half-day sessions will remain.

The 80 5-year-olds for the extended-day program will be selected through a lottery. Hours will be the same time as first grade: 8:25 a.m.-2:45 p.m.

Jacques Memorial School Principal Nancy Maguire said she is pleased the school will be offering a full-day program.

“Research shows it is so important,” she said. The children “need it, and they want.”

Marquis said some kindergartners go to Jacques in the morning and then travel to private kindergartens in the afternoon. He said the transition is hard for them and wastes time.

Being at Jacques all day would help them get used to school, he said.

“They learn the school routine and have lunch and recess, as they would have had to do in first grade,” he said.

No new learning material will be presented to the children in the full-day program – only enrichment, school officials said. There will be more time for learning through play.

Students in both full- and half-day sessions will receive the same math, reading and writing instruction. Full-day students will also have lunch and outdoor play in their schedules, as well as dramatic play and other projects. Art, music and physical education could also be part of their day, according to a School District handout.

Parents can register their children for kindergarten, including the new full-day program, between 6 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19. There will be no presentation that evening. Parents can fill out the paperwork at that time or take it home to fill out and drop off at the school by Friday, Feb. 10.

Milford, Lyndeborough and Hudson started their kindergarten programs after 2007, the year New Hampshire began mandating a half-day kindergarten program, saying it was part of an adequate education. New Hampshire was the last state to do so.

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