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December 23. 2013 10:11PM

Timberlane School Board backs full-day kindergarten

PLAISTOW — The Timberlane School Board is supporting the district plans to move forward with a full-day kindergarten program for the 2014-15 school year.

Money for the program is currently included in the proposed budget for next year, although the fees charged for full-day kindergarten will cover the costs for the program, according to Superintendent Earl Metzler.

The full-day kindergarten program will be part of the proposed budget that will come forward for a public hearing on Jan. 16.

The proposal for full-day kindergarten calls for one class of 20 students for each of the district's four elementary schools. There would still be a number of half-day kindergarten classes at each school, according to Pollard School principal Michelle Gaydos.

Although no final cost for full-day kindergarten has been set, the committee bringing forward with the proposal has been using a figure of $4,500 per year.

Gaydos said the amount will be similar to what many parents already pay for childcare while their children are in half-day classes.

"Financially, I don't think that will be a hardship for most," she said. "It will be for some, but we would have to have plans in place for them, as well."

Some surrounding communities, such as Newtown and Kingston, offer full-day kindergarten at no cost to parents. Salem offers full-day kindergarten for $3,200 per year, and Bedford offers the program for $5,000 per year.

The additional staffing costs for the program are just over $150,000 per year. Each school would need an additional half-time teacher as well as an additional half-time aide.

There would also be one full-time Spanish teacher to cover classes in each of the four elementary schools.

At a presentation to the Timberlane School Board last week, Gaydos and several district kindergarten teachers who sit on the full-day kindergarten committee laid out the benefits of having full-day kindergarten in the district.The Renaissance Kindergarten program would allow the district to focus on art and music programs as well as foreign language. There would be at least one or two art and music classes per week as well as the inclusion of the arts in the regular curriculum.The longer day would also give teachers more time for individual attention for each student, Gaydos said.

The full-day kindergarten committee is scheduled to meet with the School Board again in February to discuss more concrete details on costs for parents, including help for those who might want to take part in the program but can't afford it.

aswift@newstote.com


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