Concord School Board to consider full-day kindergarten proposal

Monitor staff
Monday, December 04, 2017

When Concord’s school board voted in March against implementing full-day kindergarten, they vowed to be better prepared in the fall.

A proposal going before the board Monday could prove to be nearly $500,000 less expensive to taxpayers than last year’s $1.2 million plan.

Concord’s new plan to offer full-day kindergarten at its four elementary schools has changed in a few key ways, including changes to staffing, savings in transportation costs and most importantly about $300,000 in new adequacy money approved when the state legalized keno.

“It’s all very exciting,” Superintendent Terri Forsten said. “Two years ago we started thinking about early childhood education and had some really thoughtful discussions. Last year, the board really struggled with it, and now it feels like we’re going to do it.”

The district is planning for an enrollment of 300 students.

This year, Concord has 276 kindergartners and last year it had 263. With a full-day program, more parents may choose to enroll their children. And historically, the district’s first grade has about 30 more students than kindergarten.

One of the major questions is where to locate the additional classrooms, staff and furniture.

Schools likely wouldn’t see an even distribution of students: Forsten said Christa McAuliffe School has seen rising enrollments in recent years, while Mill Brook enrollment has been light. However, Mill Brook also has one of the district’s two pre-K programs, and Forsten anticipates they might have to take that program’s two classrooms to make way for full-day kindergarten.

New cost projections

In total, a full-day program is projected to cost taxpayers anywhere between $507,895 and $824,848, according to a presentation Forsten made to the school board’s finance and instruction committees last week. But the actual cost might not change much – the saving to taxpayers comes thanks to the state’s increased adequacy funds and a few tweaks to the program.

It’s still too early to say exactly how much the program will cost or what its impact on the tax rate would be, Forsten said. Concord’s school portion of the tax rate has been rising since 2005; this year, the school portion jumped from $12.70 per $1,000 of assessed home value to $13.24.

The prospect of full-day kindergarten proved controversial last November and dominated the school board elections.

While many residents were in support of a full-day program, just as many seemed to be opposed to it, arguing the prospect was just too costly for taxpayers.

Concord remains one of the few communities in New Hampshire and the only city in the state that does not have a full-day kindergarten program.

Projected savings

Forsten said last year’s vision for full-day kindergarten included hiring 10 teachers, each with a master’s degree and five years of experience; and seven education assistants, for a cost of about $1 million.

This year, the district is considering 8½ full-time teaching positions with a mix of experience and education, and 10 education assistants. Based on years of experience, staffing could come in at a low of $807,895 and a high of $1 million.

Another cost associated with implementing the program is furniture, supplies and equipment for six classrooms, which is fairly fixed at a projected expense of $105,000 to $165,000.

The district is also expecting a $75,000 savings in transportation by incorporating kindergartners into existing routes.

By far the biggest difference is the $1,100 per student the district is expected to receive as the result of the so-called “kenogarten” legislation, which would equal $330,000 for 300 students. Districts are promised additional funding from keno revenue, up to $700 per student. If keno revenues exceed expectations, schools may receive more.

Concord would be in line to receive that money even though voters rejected keno in the city during last month’s election.

The school board meets Monday at 7 p.m. at 38 Liberty St.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

Editor’s note: The article was changed to clarify state funding for full day kindergarten provided when the legislature legalized keno.