Epsom school board votes to add full-day kindergarten to town meeting warrant 

Monitor staff
Published: 11/25/2018 10:00:03 PM

Residents of Epsom will have the opportunity to vote at Town Meeting this March on whether to implement a full-day kindergarten program at Epsom Central School.

The Epsom School Board voted 3-1 to create a warrant article for full-day kindergarten at its meeting on Nov. 6, school board member Alison Scheiderer said. If passed, the full-day program would begin in the fall of 2019.

Neighboring towns of Allenstown, Chichester, Pembroke and Deerfield, which share a school district with Epsom, have all implemented full-day programs, Scheiderer said. Epsom is among an estimated 15 towns in New Hampshire that still uses a half-day program.

“Epsom is one of the last towns in the state – notably the last one in the SAU – to implement full-day kindergarten. That’s been a big drive,” Scheiderer, who voted in favor of the warrant article, said.

Scheiderer said school officials have been considering this issue since it was raised last fall by a parent. Parents in favor have said they think it would improve their child’s experience and performance in first grade. Teachers in favor have said that it can be difficult to squeeze in the necessary curriculum in under three hours.

The only problem is cost.

The Epsom committee on full-day kindergarten estimates a full-day program would require the district hires one additional teacher and one additional paraprofessional, for a total of about $135,000 in new spending. About $10,000 of that cost would be a one-time supply costs, school officials said.

That spending would also be offset somewhat by new state revenues. The Legislature last session approved an extra $1,100 per-pupil for full-day kindergarten programs. If Epsom’s kindergarten enrollment holds steady at 43 students, that would be an extra $47,300 in state aid.

The district right now employs two kindergarten teachers and two paraprofessionals who run four sections of half-day kindergarten at the Epsom Central School, Scheiderer said. With a third teacher and paraprofessional, the district would have to offer three sections of full-day programming. That would mean class sizes go up. Right now, kindergarten classes have 10-13 students, Scheiderer said. If enrollment stays the same, three sections would mean 14-15 students in each class. If enrollment bumps up, which it often does when districts move to full-day kindergarten, classes could be bigger.

Graeme Crowther, an Epsom resident who has been speaking in support of full-day kindergarten, said the next goal for supporters was to convince the town budget committee to endorse the full-day kindergarten vote. That meeting is on Dec. 13.

Scheiderer said separate from the school board, she supports full-day kindergarten. Her two kids, who have not yet reached kindergarten age, are already in full-day programs, and the transition would be convenient, she said.

“From a community perspective. I think it’s inevitable that we pass it, and it gets passed throughout the state,” she said.

The Concord School Board in March approved an expansion to a full-day program next fall, becoming the last city in the state to make the transition.

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