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School board talks solutions to kindergarten conundrum

Submitted by on 1, March 10, 2009 – 8:00 amNo Comment

edison-schoolThe school board is slated to make some decisions tonight about how to handle overflowing kindergartens at four of the district’s 10 elementary schools.

District staff are recommending the board add kindergarten classes at Edison, Otis and Bay Farm schools to accommodate nearly five dozen more kindergarten students than the district originally allotted spaces for in the three East End schools. Staff is suggesting that the overflow at Franklin School, which has 10 more students than it does spaces, be diverted to other schools.

Staff is recommending that Edison’s computer lab be moved into its media center and its day care portable be split in two to fit an extra 22 students, a move that would cost an estimated $30,000. They’re also suggesting that two portables be purchased to handle the overflow at Otis, which now has 20 extra students. The portables there would cost an estimated $200,000.

Bay Farm School has the space to accommodate an extra class, according to this staff report on school board President Mike McMahon’s website (it’s item #2).

Other ideas considered by the district included creating AM/PM kindergartens, increasing class sizes, withdrawing day care and moving attendance zone boundaries.

Lotteries were held at all four schools following kindergarten roundup to select students to fill the available spaces at each. The rest were placed on a wait list.

Even if the school board okays the extra kindergarten classes, the district could still consolidate classes and divert students to other schools if they don’t get the number of students they’re expecting once the school year starts. This year the district got 15 fewer kindergartners than expected at the start of the school year. Staff shuttered a kindergarten class and moved some students, angering who had little advance notice of the move.

Some parents are concerned about what they see as continued uncertainty about where their kids will be going to school this fall. One Bay Farm Island parent who contacted The Island said he’d like a commitment from the district to reconsider all its options in order to keep kids at schools in their neighborhoods.

“All I’m asking is for a commitment that if something like that happens this year, they will make every effort to solve the problem without long-distance diversions. It would give me a lot of comfort if they just said that, in the event they end up with 10 fewer kids at Bay Farm than are currently on the list, they will nonetheless find a way to keep kids at a school in their neighborhood,” said Aaron Rubin, who has a child on the kindergarten wait list for Bay Farm School in the fall.

The staff presentation also notes that the district needs to come up with a comprehensive, long-term master plan to deal with its ongoing enrollment issues. I think they’ve said they’d like to have that done by December.

Parents had asked the school board at its last meeting to expedite its decision on how the district will handle overenrolled kindergartens, and the board complied.

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