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WLC mulls half- vs. full-day kindergarten



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, December 04, 2017

With the budget for the new school year looming, the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School district has a decision to make: Whether or not to take advantage of extra state funding in order to make the switch from half-day to full-day kindergarten classes.

The School Board will decide shortly whether or not to put an article on this March’s warrant requesting funds to make their kindergarten full day.

“A formal decision has not been made, but if we do go ahead with it, I can almost guarantee it will be a warrant article we put to the voters,” said School Board Chair Harry Dailey.

In July, Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill into law that increased funding for kindergarten. The state pays adequacy aid to schools based on their student population, but prior to this year, it only paid half of the standard per-student amount – about $1,800. 

Now, with the new law, the state will provide an additional $1,100 per full-day kindergarten student starting in 2019, with funds generated by the keno lottery, which was legalized this year. While not full funding for pre-grade school students, it may be the tipping point for some communities to add full-day kindergarten as an option.

For Wilton-Lyndeborough, having two full-day kindergarten classes would mean an additional cost of about $105,000, to add one full time and one part-time position. Most of the other costs, such as transportation, materials, and facilities, would remain about the same.

That number would be offset by potentially $44,000 of increased state aid, based on a projection of 40 students, making the potential net cost to the district’s taxpayers about $60,000.

“I’m convinced educationally that it’s the right thing to do,” said Dailey. “If there was no to very minimal cost, I would be a strong advocate. But there is a financial component, so that’s why I think it’s important to put it to the voters, so they can judge whether or not they think it’s worth the cost.”

Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative currently has two half-day sessions of kindergarten available for residents. They do offer an extended-day program at parent cost, meaning there are already some students staying a full school day at Lyndeborough Central.

This year, the district had about 38 students enrolled in the kindergarten program, with about 18 taking advantage of the extended-day option.

Dailey said that if there were parents who were opposed to having their kindergarten-aged student in class that long, it was likely the district could work out an informal half-day agreement, even if there were not a half-day option.

“That’s one of the good things about having such a small school district, you can have that flexibility,” said Dailey.

During its meeting on Tuesday, the board examined a compiling of third-grade test scores from 2014-15 and 2015-16 from districts of similar size which had had kindergarten for at least three years. 

According to those statistics, provided by the Department of education, in 2014-15, Wilton third-graders scored 17 percent below the proficiency average of school districts with full-day kindergarten in reading, and 9 percent below in math. 

In 2015-16, WLC was 10 percent below the average of school districts with full-day  kindergarten in both subjects. 

However, when compared to districts without full-day kindergarten, scores were not disparate enough to pin down whether kindergarten was a deciding factor or not. 

“There is no magical set of datapoints that will tell us what to do,” said Dailey. “Because if you look hard enough, you can find the data to support whatever you want.”

Dailey said he had been looking at studies surrounding the impacts of full day kindergarten, which he said had a general consensus of positive impact, though others had shown that by the third grade, students tended to reach the same level whether or not they had access to full-day kindergarten. 

The district’s Superintendent, Bryan Lane, informed the board that currently, he is unsatisfied with how the district is scoring in standardized testing, the first of which students take in the third grade. 

“We are making strides in that area,” he said.

But one of the ways to continue those improvements, he said, would be to increase the proficiency of students coming into the first grade.

“Currently, 40 to 50 percent of first graders come to us without the proficient skills to read. If kids were able to come to school better prepared, they’re more likely to go on to be proficient or exceed proficiency.”

Currently, Wilton and Lyndeborough are two of the 55 towns in the state that don’t offer full-day kindergarten, along with the Mascenic and Mason School districts, as opposed to 149 that do, which includes the ConVal and Jaffrey-Rindge School Districts.

 

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.