School board okays more kindergarten classes
Last night, the school board unanimously okayed adding kindergarten classes to handle overflows at Bay Farm, Edison and Otis elementary schools next fall.
But board members and district staff cautioned that the added kindergartens are only a temporary solution to what is anticipated to be an ongoing enrollment problem in the district, and they said they need to create a master plan to deal with the enrollment issues on a long-term basis.
“The common theme here is that we’re doing something for one year, but we’ve got to put on the table something that deals with this in the coming years,” student services chief Jeff Knoth told the board.
Knoth said that the classes could be eliminated at those or any of the district’s schools if those schools get fewer students than anticipated in the fall, though Superintendent Kirsten Vital said she expects the classrooms to be full this year.
Staff also conceded that the changes could strain day care availability at the schools, but staff said they are working with the day care operators at the schools to fix that problem. Specifically, the changes at Edison will reduce the number of after-school care slots available at that school.
District staff had recommended the board okay two new portables to handle an extra kindergarten class and ongoing enrollment in the upper grades at Otis, at a cost of $230,000; moving Edison’s computer lab into its media center and splitting its day care portable, which will cost an estimated $45,000; and adding a kindergarten class at Bay Farm, which has the space for more students. Additional students at Franklin School are on track to be diverted to other schools.
Money for the projects will come from facilities reserve funds.
District staff had considered a number of other options, including increasing class sizes and running AM/PM kindergartens. But those two issues would have to be negotiated with the district’s teachers union. The district has asked the union to negotiate over both items.
Parents said they support the district’s plan. But they want fast solutions to the day care conundrum and movement on a long-term plan, largely to ease pressure on schools that are bursting at the seams.
“Thank you for a plan that supports my child,” parent Eric Mapes said.
Board members said they supported the plan and were eager to get parent help on their upcoming master plan, though trustee Trish Spencer asked Knoth whether space was available at other schools in the district. Still, she said she didn’t want to see students diverted from their neighborhood schools.
A master plan process is to be laid out at the board’s next regular meeting, on March 24.