The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 30, 2000


Parents will pay for longer kindergarten

Starting in September, kindergartners at the Carlisle Public School will extend their hours from five mornings to two full days and three mornings. Since there is no money in the school budget for the additional teaching hours, fees will be charged to cover the cost. Although not yet finally determined, the proposed fee is expected to be approximately $90 per child to cover the year's expenses of about $8,000 for the additional hours.The state permits fees to be charged because parents are not required to send children to kindergarten.

The kindergarten program currently runs five morning classes in the fall for approximately 90 children. In January, two days are expanded to full days, with the five- and six-year-olds on the same 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule as the rest of the lower school.

The Carlisle School Committee (CSC) unanimously voted the change on

On the one hand, the teachers say there is not enough time for the children during the day, but are we trying to do too much with the kids?

June 20 after a lengthy discussion and on the recommendation of the kindergarten task force, made up of fifteen school staff members and Carlisle community members. Earlier in June, the CSC held a public hearing to enable the community to hear the recommendations of the task force, gather input on the feasibility of the increase of kindergarten hours and discuss the necessity of charging fees to implement the increase. Although there were some families who were not in favor of the expanded program, the majority of incoming kindergarten families represented at the hearing were pleased.

The Carlisle School teachers also looked favorably on the change. Assistant principal Terry Farwell, a member of the task force, stated that more hours would allow a more relaxed pace for the school program.

School committee member Cindy Nock began the formal discussion with a list of questions. "On the one hand, the teachers say there is not enough time for the children during the day but are we trying to do too much with the kids? The transition time for the children in January is difficult, but is the school addressing the transition problem? Should the structure of the day and/or year be different? Do the parents want this change?" She also struggled with what could be seen as a change in school philosophy. She felt that the money for teachers' salaries and the academic program should be part of the town and school budget. The school also has a policy not to rely on grants for teachers' salaries. "If something happens to the grant or the fees are not generated for some reason then the school is stuck."

Member David Dockterman said he heard overwhelming support for the change at the public hearing and a willingness to have the increased hours in spite of the fees. He felt, however, that the school should put the increased program in the budget for next year. "The additional hours allow the kids to work at a reasonable pace. It is a benefit to them." He then asked the group present, "What is the best experience the school can offer to the kids today and what action is the correct action to alleviate stress? Do you stretch out the time or ask less of the program?"

Chair Paul Morrison agreed that Nock had raised some points that needed to be addressed, issues that were other than the money issues. Nock said she had received some calls from parents who wondered whether the school was trying to do more and more. They didn't want to harm the kids.

The meeting was then opened up to the teachers in the audience. All five kindergarten teachers attended. Teacher Peter Darasz said, "Transitions are not easy. It is better to start right in at the beginning of the year rather than making a change in the middle. I am more interested in the longer days. I would then know there is more time to have a more relaxed program." He elaborated to say, "With the amount of special activities the children have there isn't much play time left. The special activities include music, art, snack time, recess, handwriting and open circle and are all included in the morning two-and-a-half hour school time." Additionally he said, "Out of a class of approximately 20 children, eight continue on to the extended day program after school."

"When thirty minutes of specials are included, they do break up the two-and-a-half hour class time," agreed teacher Sandy Walker. "The specials are always confined to the morning and, with more time available during the school day, some could be shifted to the afternoon. Bigger blocks of time would then be freed up." Walker also felt the continuity of the schedule would be easier for parents. Dockterman agreed that parents also have a transition problem with the shift in the school schedule halfway through the year.

The CSC voted to begin the increased hours for kindergarten in the fall, and then to reassess the whole program. Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson concurred and added, "By having a pilot project everyone can look back and see what happened. One can track the issues and respond accordingly."

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito