The Southington Board of Education will be making cuts to reduce the proposed 2013-14 budget before it is sent to the Board of Finance next week – but all-day kindergarten will not be one of those cuts.
Members of the board spoke heavily in favor of a proposal to bring all-day kindergarten to the district this fall during a budget workshop Thursday evening, with five of the nine members of the board supporting the plan and several indicating that it should be a “top priority” in this year’s budget process.
“Based on the best information we have right now, today’s curriculum doesn’t fit into the time that teachers have to get everything done,” said board member Terry Lombardi. “It’s simple. The time in that classroom is needed to get these children ready for what is coming down the pike.”
“I am a proponent of the full-day program and want see prioritization within our budget to make it happen,” she said. “I’d like to see what else we can cut if needed to make it possible.”
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The district’s decision to explore implementing an all-day program has captured the attention of parents throughout town, with many voicing their opinions both for and against the program during several public information sessions, through blogs such as those presented on Patch by Lakshmi Frechette and Michelle Slimak, and at previous Board of Education meetings.
The proposal calls for the entire district to go to an all-day program beginning in 2013, Assistant Superintendent Karen Smith said in parent information sessions held in 2012. Those who are concerned it would be too much for their child would be invited to work with school administrators to create a “learning plan” for their children.
By shuffling staff members and using existing equipment and space, as well as eliminating twice a day bus routes, DiNello said during a November Board of Education meeting that the program would cost $396,411 in the first year.
Staff said $143,545 would be a one-time expenditure, leaving an annual cost of $252,866 annually for salary and benefits, supplies and all other necessities after the 2013-14 school year.
Board member Colleen Clark, who works as a pre-school instructor, said she is concerned that if the district chooses not to implement all-day kindergarten, it will have adverse affects as the town prepares to meet the new State Core Standards.
She said Thursday that those in pre-school are able to learn simple tasks such as sitting, using learning materials properly and socializing with students, but the district has a large group of incoming kindergarteners each year who have not had this experience.
“My concern is for the teachers trying to teach those who have had no pre-school experience at all. Trying to get them to sit, to learn, to socialize. What are we setting these kids up for? To give these little learners the time to learn everything need to in order to be successful, that’s what I’m hoping have the ability to do with this budget.”
In Other Business…
The board has come to a consensus on several reductions including eliminating certain new positions in an effort to reduce Erardi’s proposed budget. Members of the board were in unanimous agreement that the proposal needs to be reduced further before sending the request to the Board of Finance.
The consensus reductions have already accounted for $900,000 in cuts, reducing School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi’s request from $86.45 million to $85.58 million. The new figure represents a 3.82 percent increase over the existing budget.
Further reductions are anticipated before the Southington Board of Education votes on a final proposal on Jan. 24.
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