Law could add full-day kindergarten

  • Recently graduated kindergarten students Lillian Hamel of Wilton, left, Drew Dowling of Wilton, and Deryk Ouellette of Lyndeborough begin their first day of school on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, July 12, 2017 8:16PM

Extra state funding could make the difference between half-day and full-day kindergarten for local schools.

On Wednesday, Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law SB 191, which aims to eventually give schools as much adequacy aid for kindergartners as it does for grade school students. Previously, kindergartners had been counted as half a student, getting half as much state aid.

The boost could make a difference for local schools who only offer half-day kindergarten, often with cost as a main, if not the only, factor.

“This would change the conversation,” said Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School Board Vice-Chair Geoff Brock. “There are a number of people that believe there is a great value in full-day kindergarten.”

What the bill does

While the bill does not mandate the implementation of full-day kindergarten, that is its aim, generally by increasing state funding for kindergarten students.

Currently, the state pays a base rate of about $1,800 to districts per kindergarten student. That’s half of the the $3,600 paid for grade-school students.

The bill increases that amount to an additional $1,100 per full-day kindergarten student, as of 2019. That’s still under the funding that grade school students get, but in subsequent years, that funding could increase up to the full amount, depending upon revenues from the gambling game Keno, which is being used as a funding source.

How does this affect us?

WLC currently offers both morning and afternoon sessions of half-day kindergarten, and supplements that with a extended day program, meaning some of its students are already spending a full school day on the school grounds. The extended day program, which is not a full kindergarten program, is paid for by the participating families and is a self-sustaining model. But Brock said that a full-day kindergarten option might be a more attractive option for parents. But in the past, the district has only offered half-day, mainly due to costs, he said.

“The main driver is around money,” said Brock. “The statistics and studies around academia support that full-day kindergarten is something that works for most people.”

Brock said he recognized that there were parents who balked at sending their five-year-olds to school for a full day, and said the district could offer a half-day option in addition to a full-day one. But the school board hasn’t yet had an opportunity to discuss any of those ideas in detail yet, being that the law is only hours on the books, and said that in any configuration, the concept of full-day kindergarten would likely go in front of the voters as a warrant article — perhaps as soon as next year.

For now, the school board has set a strategic planning set of priorities, and looking at full-day kindergarten will be one of those priorities, said WLC Superintendent Bryan Lane. 

“I’m sure the additional funding will play into the discussion,” said Lane, who added that parents are encouraged to participate in these discussions and share their concerns, if they have them.

Lane said that there are currently about 34 students enrolled in kindergarten for the coming year — a similar number to last year’s enrollment. Between 15 and 20 take advantage of the extended day option.

“If you use the extended day program as a sampling, we have parents in the community interested in this,” said Lane. 

Other school officials also expressed support for the concept of full-day kindergarten, though they had yet had time to consider the implications of the bill.

Mason School Board chair Chris Guiry, said that personally, he supports full-day kindergarten, but knows from previous conversations in Mason and from his former stint on the Mascenic School Board that many parents in the area may be wary of the idea.

“I’m for it,” said Guiry of full-day kindergarten. “But we do have a constituency that feel they would prefer to have their child at home longer, as opposed to in the school environment at that age.”

Guiry said he hadn’t read the bill in full or looked at what it’s passage could mean for the Mason School District, but said if it made it viable, “I would lobby as hard as I could for full-day.”

The other local district with only a half-day option is Mascenic Regional School District.

"It is my understanding that from time to time parents have made inquiries into the availability of such a program, no district-wide effort has been made to implement it to date," said Steve Russell, interim superintendent at Mascenic.

A boost for Conant and ConVal

For those already providing full-day kindergarten, the increase in state aid is a welcome compensation for a service that’s already being provided.

Jaffrey-Rindge School District Superintendent Reuben Duncan said he sees this as a benefit and support for a service the district has been providing since 2003.

In 2016-17, Jaffrey-Rindge had 107 kids in kindergarten between its two elementary schools. Using those numbers, the district would have had an minimal additional  $117,700 in state funding had the law been in place at that time.

“I certainly agree with the bill,” said Duncan. “To have the state back up [full-day kindergarten] with the potential to fully fund it is providing districts with the support they deserve.”

ConVal also provides full-day kindergarten services, and will be benefiting from the increased funding. 


Reporter Nick Handy and Editor Tony Marquis contributed to this report.