Board votes no on full-day kindergarten in Sparta

Board votes down two proposals, will realign schools

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How they voted

The first proposal for full-day kindergarten included the board using the district’s available $1,033,645 of banked cap money to fund the program.
The proposal was voted down with a 5-3 vote.
Who voted yes: Karen Scott, board president
Kelly McEvoy
Todd Muth
Who voted no: Brenda Beebe
Rich Bladek
Frank Favichia
Jack Surdoval
Kim Yeomans
*Scott Turner was not present

By Fran Hardy
— Parents and children will have to wait at least another year before their school district institutes a full-day kindergarten program although they may be sending their students to new schools next year.

The board voted down two proposals to implement a full-day program last week, but voted in favor of realigning schools for the third time in five years.

The current half-day kindergarten classes, along with pre-school, will be moved from Mohawk Avenue School to the Alpine School. Third grade will be moved from Alpine to Mohawk.

The first proposal for full-day kindergarten, which was recommended to the board by Superintendent Dennis Tobin and his administrative and educational team, was to implement a program and to fund it using the district’s available $1,033,645 of banked cap money, which are funds that have accrued since the district kept the tax levy under the state’s required two percent increase during the 2012-2013 budget year.

The state allows this money to remain in a “cap bank” to be used within a three-year period.

The proposal was voted down with a 5-3 vote. Brenda Beebe, Rich Bladek, Frank Favichia, Jack Surdoval, and Kim Yeomans voted no. Board president Karen Scott, along with vice president Kelly McEvoy, and Todd Muth voted yes. Scott Turner was not present.

A second proposal, suggested by Favichia at the board’s working session two weeks ago, was to implement full-day kindergarten using a combination of banked cap funds and student tuition.

The tuition plan would involve charging families $5,795 per child to attend kindergarten.

The money from tuition would be supplemented with $305,000 from the cap bank. The proposal was defeated 7-1, with Favichia as the only vote in favor.

More than 80 percent of school districts in the state offer a full-day kindergarten program.

Realignment
Tobin’s proposal to realign the grades in the elementary schools was approved by the board 6-2. McEvoy and Yeomans were the two dissenting votes.

Under the new plan, Alpine School will become the district’s early learning center, with pre-kindergarten through second grade housed there. Third grade will now be the only grade in Mohawk Avenue School. No waivers will have to be sought from the state, as this facility is equipped with up to code requirements for this grade level.

Fourth and fifth grades will remain at the Helen Morgan School and there will be no changes at the middle school or high school.

During public participation, the majority spoke in favor of full-day kindergarten and against the realignment, applauding after every supporter spoke, while a few citizens spoke against full-day, calling it unnecessary and too expensive for taxpayers.

Sparta Education Association president Susan Sawey, who has previously said her teachers and staff were not in favor of another realignment, having already gone through two previous realignments in the last five years, expressed clear disappointment over the defeat of the full-day kindergarten program after the meeting last week.

“It is unfortunate that the board of education voted against a strong recommendation from their educational professionals,” Sawey said.

Scott said that she had hoped the full-day program would be approved.

“As I have said, we can talk about this data says this and those statistics say that, but what it comes down to is common sense,” Scott said. “How can less time in the classroom be better for children than more time spent in the classroom being instructed by a certified teacher?”

On the realignment issue, Scott said she wrestled with the decision because she knows it will be painful for some people. However, she considers it forward thinking.

“Hopefully, full-day kindergarten will be approved next year and we will have everything in place at Alpine and be ready to move forward,” Scott said.

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