Were You Ready for First Grade? Do You Remember Kindergarten? Have Today’s Expectations Changed?
January 11, 2019
by Len Lathrop
As full-day kindergarten sweeps across New Hampshire as it has in most states, Hudson voters will be faced with the question of supporting it or remaining with half-day programs. While our elected school board members support the importance of it, they, by their actions and words, did not believe that Hudson was ready to start full-day kindergarten in the 2019-2020 school year. However, a group of parents and school administrators do, and they have gathered signatures for a petition warrant article on the March 12 School District ballot.
This week the school board and senior administrators are releasing a new survey to the citizens and businesses in Hudson. This is the second collection of information to determine what the “people want” relative to full-day studies for 5 year olds. The question can be found on page 8 of this week’s paper or online at http://goo.gl/LxXVrE you answer the questions on paper, the forms can be dropped off at the front door of the SAU offices at the Kimball Webster School on Library Street or at the Hudson Senior Center at the North Barn building at 19 Kimball Hill Road.
One factor having impact on the discussion happened back in June 2017 when state lawmakers approved a plan to provide state support for full-day kindergarten in New Hampshire. This law provides funds for kindergarten from Keno; districts before “Kenogarten” will add an $1,100 additional funding to the $18,000 that the state all ready provided, while the cost of this early education is more than the funding providing by the state.
Seventeen states, plus the District of Columbia, require children to attend kindergarten, although the length of day varies across states. Thirteen states, plus the District of Columbia, require the school district to offer full-day kindergarten.
Last November three proposals to implement full-day kindergarten were brought forward from the SAU administrators to the school committee. This wasn’t the first time the school leaders had heard about full-day kindergarten in Hudson, but these provided the first view of plans of how to do it.
These three implementation options for full-day kindergarten have been in review for several months including three scenarios. The first is placing portable classrooms outside of H. O. Smith School, which has a projected first-year cost of $957,797. The second is to move the current preschool class at Library Street School to Nottingham West and have full-day kindergarten at the Library Street School. The third plan leaves the preschool at Library Street, placing the full-day kindergarten at H. O. Smith School, and moving the first grade students to Hills Garrison School and Nottingham West School. Scenario 2 has a first-year cost of $693,797, while the third scenario is $658,835. Note that the ongoing annual cost at this time is between $427,000 and $518,000 based on the different options.
The school board had done an informational survey at the end of June, which was sent to a parent list by the superintendent’s office; there were 825 responses. The bottom line to the question of support is that 79 percent supported full-day kindergarten. While it was an interesting survey but the sample group might not have large effort for representing the Hudson community.
A citizen petition will be on the school ballot in March, which was put together after the school board elected not to put the question to the voters as the board felt that they were not ready to proceed and further planning was needed. The petition warrant article asks for approval of the first scenario that uses the learning cottages (portables) for the students. The supporters are quick to explain that they are not suggesting that is the best option, but, if it passes, then the administration will have enough funds for any of the options.
Please complete the survey on page 8 to give the school board and leadership team a better understanding of what the community wants for their youngest learners.