Thursday, May 16, 2013

All Day K Approved

The ORCSD school board approved a plan for full day Kindergarten in the district last night.   The tentative proposal is that starting this fall 60 full day K slots would be available at a tuition of $210 per week.   Half day K would continue to be offered at no charge.   In three years, the program could accommodate every Kindergarten student in the district all day.

Superintendent Morse presented the plan as a solution to the elementary school equity problem. The district would handle enrollment into Kindergarten and send most of the students to Mast Way.  The students would then attend their neighborhood school for grades 1 to 4 (so some attending K at Mast Way will attend first grade at Moharimet); no redrawing of the line between the schools would be necessary.

The program is billed as self-sustaining: there would be no additional funds required from the taxpayers.  In the first year the money will be used to create and build the program.  In subsequent years the excess of tuition over costs would be available to lower taxes or fund district projects.  When asked if the taxpayers would eventually pay for full day K the superintendent predicted for that for the next five or six years tuition "is the model."

For a board that usually tediously ponders every decision, the speed at which this happened was remarkable.  It was unclear whether further approval from the board is required.  Update 5/17: Chairman Barth tells me that the board only voted to allow the superintendent to explore further.   There are no minutes available yet, but from the recording board member Rotner's motion was "to give Superintendent Morse the approval to move forward with the proposal to phase in all day Kindergarten and take the appropriate next steps."   That seemed like a pretty broad approval to me at the time, and reading it now it still does.  The vote was 6-0 (member Lane was out of town).  Surely further board actions will need to happen to make All Day K real, so there will be chances to stop.

 What appears most likely is that there will be a special election this summer to approve the project for the fall.  Technically the vote would be to amend the FY14 budget just approved in March.  This is needed because even though the program will not raise taxes, the district would spend more money than the approved budget.  This additional spending needs to be approved by the taxpayers before it's legal.

The budget proposed expected FY14 revenue of $210 per student per week * 60 students * 36 weeks = $453,600.  2.5 teachers and 2.5 paras would be hired.  10% of the budget would be dedicated to scholarships. Class size would be 15 or 16.  Transportation, lunch and snack are included.  (The increase in transportation costs should be pretty small as we are already busing half day K students.  Costs come from the additional distance to Mast Way for some and from extra students that would have otherwise done private K.)

Though the initial year is proposed to have at most 60 students, the superintendent said the program could open with as few as 30 students.   Among the next steps is a survey of next year's Kindergarten families to gauge interest.

One reason the project is able to get off the ground so quickly was the existence of a five-year old report on All Day K in the district.  Apparently I was wrong when I reported after the last meeting that the solution to the elementary inequity was to redraw the bus lines -- sorry about that.

The superintendent mentioned an "executive fund" and a board meeting with the district lawyer immediately after the public meeting.  The fund seems to be some kind of scheme for getting around the apparent requirement that the taxpayers must approve the change to the FY14 budget if All Day K is to start this fall.  My free advice to the board and superintendent: whenever you feel you need to ask the lawyer if what you want to do is OK (like holding secret meetings in police stations or spending half a million dollars without taxpayer approval) you probably just shouldn't do it whatever the lawyer says.  This board, which serves under the threat of contempt of court due to past Right-to-Know violations, would do well to adhere to the well-accepted, if occasionally inconvenient, procedures of governance.

During public comments recently retired board member Krista Butts expressed concern that the tuition may be too high for some families which do not qualify for scholarships.  My recollection is that the proposed price is significantly higher than the maximum tuition at full day K at CSDC (UNH daycare) our family paid a few years ago, but I'd have to look that up to be sure.  Ms. Butts further pointed out that the proposal doesn't really solve the equity problem.  Even though adding full day K gets enrollment at Mast Way within 20 students of Mohariment, according to Krista the class sizes for grades 1-4 will still be much higher at Moharimet (and thus inequitable) under this proposal.

In other news, Dr. Andy Smith presented the results of the district-wide tuition phone survey.  67% of the public support tuitioning in 290 students, with no real preference between the Newmarket and the Deerfield/Barrington option.  Only 9% oppose.  There will be a public, district-wide meeting about the issue at the high school May 30.  Postcards were to be mailed to all homeowners in the district today.

Board member Turnbull once again hinted at an alternative to tuitioning: closing a school.  She used terms like "facilities consolidation" and "program reduction."  I'll write more on tuitioning soon -- watch this space.

Here's the video of the All Day K proposal, starting at 1:30:00.  Thanks to Alexander in the booth for getting this out right after the meeting ended.


  1. i want to know what the motion was. if the SB voted 6-0, they were voting on a motion. what was the motion?

  2. Thanks for the question, John. I modified the fourth paragraph to answer.