Shelton schools prepare for full-day K

The city’s public schools will have at least 50 more children enrolled in kindergarten this fall, with the expansion to a full-day kindergarten program.

As of early last week, 275 youngsters had enrolled in kindergarten for the 2014-15 academic year — and that number is almost certain to go up in the coming weeks. (More about enrolling your child for school is here.)

That compares to 226 students who attended kindergarten during the school year that ended in late June, with a half-day program.

The district will dedicate 17 classrooms to the kindergarten level, and increase of eight classrooms from the last school year (with a half-day program, the same room could be used for both morning and afternoon sessions, so about half as many rooms were needed).

Training sessions for teachers on the expanded full-day kindergarten curriculum are scheduled to take place during two days this week, with the new school year to begin the day after Labor Day.

The district also has ordered the furniture needed for the new kindergarten classrooms through a bidding process, and the price came in lower than expected.

The winning bid was for $54,817 while the Board of Education (BOE) had anticipated spending $60,000.

Furniture vs. equipment

The BOE also plans to purchase new technology for the kindergarten level.

This has led to a disagreement between some city and school officials, with city officials insisting its offer to provide $200,000 for furniture, fixtures and equipment for full-day K didn’t include money for technology.

Mayor Mark Lauretti said BOE isn’t going to spend $200,000 on kindergarten-related furniture, fixtures and equipment, and that this city funding wasn’t intended to be used for computers.

“They’ll get what they need and not what they want,” Lauretti said of how the $200,000 should be spent. “Computers weren’t in the equation.”

The city has provided $500,000 in capital funding for the school district that could be used for computers.

School Supt. Freeman Burr agreed that technology was presented as a separate expense during full-day K presentations, but that the computers are needed.

Burr said the $200,000 for full-day K expenses was viewed as being separate from the $500,000 in capital money. “That’s how I interpreted it,” he said.

Burr is unsure if the school system will be able to use the rest of the $200,000 for kindergarten-related technology items, or if other sources must be used.

He plans to meet with some aldermen as soon as this week to discuss the issue. “It’s unclear right now,” he said.

Burr is excited about the district offering full-day kindergarten for the first time.

“It will be a tremendous benefit to our students, helping prepare them to go forward in the future and helping with the percentage of our students reading at or above grade level,” he said.

Technology needed

The expenses for furniture, fixtures, equipment and technology for full-day K came up at last week’s BOE meeting.

Burr told BOE members it’s always been known that “some heavy-duty technology” would be needed for the expanded kindergarten program.

The district plans to buy interactive Promethean boards and Chromebook laptop computers, which likely will cost from $120,000 to $140,000, bringing the total expenses for furniture, equipment and technology close to $200,000.

“Our estimate of $200,000 is in the ballpark,” said Burr, noting that the cost of purchasing technology items generally is coming down every year.

It’s uncertain whether all the kindergarten furniture will be delivered in time for the new school year. “The bidder has concerns about the lead time,” Burr said.

As for teachers, there will be eight new kindergarten teachers for the added classrooms. Five of those positions were to be filled from having fewer classrooms in other elementary grades due to declining enrollment, and three new teachers were to be hired.

It now appears only three or four fewer teachers will be needed in other elementary grades, so the district may have to hire one or two more teachers than was expected.

There was ongoing debate on the merits of full day kindergarten. Read more about that here.