BOS chair voices support for full-day KBy Mike Berger
Selectmen Chairman John Connolly sounded support for tuition-free, full-day kindergarten at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting as School Committee members and school administrators outlined the project before the board.
Although Connolly said his inbox was flooded with emails from eager parents on Sunday, he said, “I am now over it” and praised the program and said it was worthwhile for the town to look into it. His two daughters went through full-day kindergarten and he called it a “tremendous program.”
“The girls learned so much,” he said. “We should look into it thoroughly. In my opinion, it is a no brainer. It is the right thing to do.”
Steve McPherson, who has organized a parents’ group in support of the project, apologized to Connolly for the barrage of emails. “The parents are so enthusiastic about it,” McPherson said. “They are just showing their strong support.”
Selectman Mark Porter, former chair of the Finance Committee, told McPherson and parents to become students of municipal finance and stay tuned to the budget presentations and bring the same amount of enthusiasm to the May town meeting. “Come to town meeting and stay to the end,” he said.
Selectman Victor Del Vecchio mentioned a letter to the editor from concerned parents that appeared in last week’s Canton Citizen that suggested that the schools should wait until a permanent superintendent is appointed before implementing full-day kindergarten.
But School Committee member John Bonnanzio told selectmen that they have been mulling the idea for the past decade and it is the wishes of all the current members to pursue the plan for the next school year.
School Business Manager Barry Nectow and Interim School Superintendent Jen Henderson presented the plan to selectmen, with Nectow reiterating that the program costs would be reduced significantly after the first year ($743,000) due to additional state Chapter 70 funding. Nectow said the town would receive at least $600,000 beginning in the second year and would continue to receive that total as long as Canton’s school enrollment stays the same or increases.
The Canton Public Schools currently offers 10 full-day classes, for which parents pay tuition, and two half-day classes. School officials said if the new program is approved, the half-day program would end and the new costs would be for hiring additional teachers, aides, and some busing to move students to either the Luce or Hansen Schools since the JFK School has no extra classroom space.
Bonnanzio said the committee will next meet with the FinCom to explain the program and discuss funding options.
Henderson said this is the only new programming initiative that the School Department is proposing for the next budget year. However, the committee recently settled with all of the employees’ unions and officials must factor in those additional costs when determining how much new revenue may be available.
At the last School Committee meeting on December 3, committee members said it is unlikely that the school budget could absorb the entire $743,000 for full-day kindergarten unless the town’s Revenue Committee substantially increases the allotment of new money or the FinCom agrees to support using some amount of free cash reserves …
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