By Mary Loftis –
Recently the ConVal School Board has been faced with a series of confounding decisions. One, of course, is what to do about the high cost of maintaining the District’s far-flung school infrastructure in light of declining enrollment. This thorny issue, the focus of the ConVal District Model Study Committee, was discussed last month in the nine towns that make up the District.
Another tough decision has to do with World Language offerings at ConVal High School. Low enrollment in these elective classes indicates that the three languages (Spanish, French and German) might advantageously be reduced to two. But how to choose which language to drop? And with the School Board’s stated commitment to becoming a High Performing District, is reducing an academic offering the direction to go in?
And now we have the Kindergarten decision. Full-day Kindergarten came about as a by-product of low enrollment in some of the small elementary schools. Since there weren’t enough five-year-olds to make up a stand-alone half-day class, Kindergartners were grouped with first graders, and it made sense to keep them all for the full school day. And it has worked out very well, as evidenced right here inDublin. Educational literature on the subject indicates positive effects of full-day programs. The trouble is that the population of five-year-olds has been very unstable, particularly in Francestown. Some years there are enough kids to warrant a stand-alone Kindergarten; sometimes they’re teamed up with first graders. Rather than switch back and forth between half and full day, the School Board initially voted to maintain the full-day offering there. And yet there were troubling inequities. Parents in other towns clearly and vociferously indicated their preference for a full-day program. But District-wide full-day Kindergarten wasn’t in the budget just approved by voters in March.
So, to establish consistency, in early April the School Board reversed its previous decision. Full-day Kindergarten will remain in schools (such as DCS) where there are combined K-1 classes. All stand-alone Kindergartens will be half-day. Was this the right decision? Certainly parents in Francestown andBenningtondon’t think so. Some of us on the School Board also had a queasy feeling; we had voted to offer some of our youngest students less, not more. Although there is logic and consistency to the decision, it was also a painful one.
The Education Committee will soon take up the issue of district-wide full-day Kindergarten. This discussion will have important educational and financial implications and will occur in the context of whatever conclusions are drawn from the work of the Model Study Committee. Please call me at 563-8884 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to talk about any of these important issues.
Mary Loftis is Dublin’s representative to the ConVal School Board for SAU 1.