Yarmouth School Committee studies all-day kindergarten proposal

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YARMOUTH — The School Committee has taken the first steps in considering an all-day kindergarten program.

A 13-member task force has been researching the costs, benefits and community response over the past few months. The task force is made up of kindergarten teachers, parents, School Committee members, principals, a guidance councilor, special education teacher and K-4 lead math teacher.

The task force presented its preliminary findings to the School Committee in a Nov. 10 workshop.

According to the task force, the program could be Monday through Friday, 8:20 a.m. to 3:10 p.m., for 5- and 6-year-old children, with up to 18 students in each class.

The group provided supporting evidence based on national, statewide and local information. It listed advantages and disadvantages of all-day kindergarten and half-day programs.

Results from an informal survey of parents taken last spring during a kindergarten screening showed 38 parents viewed all-day kindergarten as an upgrade, 19 parents preferred half-day kindergarten, and two had no preference.

School Committee Chairman David Ray said the full-day kindergarten program was presented to the committee in years past, but was met with resistance from about half of the responding community. 

“We are not sure if this is still the case, but this is just the beginning of the discussion,” he said. “We need to decide if the additional cost justifies the change.”

Superintendent of Schools Judy Paolucci said that the while the task force put together preliminary projected resources needed for the program – including three teachers, two ed techs, supplies and furniture – the cost is a moving target. She said there are start-up costs as well as the annual costs associated with all-day kindergarten.

“This is just the fact-finding step,” she said, noting the importance of considering all-day kindergarten prior to budget season. “But we can’t just look at the cost, we have to look at the benefit to the student and the community, too.”

Paolucci said the next step is to talk to more people to gauge their interest before things go too far.

“It’s always important to do the research early and understand what the community needs. We also need to be cognizant of other needs in this economic climate,” she said. “This is the beginning step of a public process, and there is a lot of work to be done.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.