Epsom school district considering full-day kindergarten

  • Epsom is exploring expanding to full-day kindergarten at the Epsom Central School. A committee is looking into the costs and logistics involved and has been meeting since January GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 4/5/2018 11:36:29 PM

One of the few school districts in the state still offering half-day kindergarten is exploring expanding to full-day program in fall 2019.

A committee in Epsom is looking into the costs and logistics involved and has been meeting since January. Alison Scheiderer, who sits on the school board and the committee, said the group got together after a parent came to the school board in the fall asking them to consider moving to a full-day program.

It quickly became apparent to the board that it was too late in the budget cycle to try for the upcoming fall, Scheiderer said, so the committee was tasked with exploring how much a rollout would cost starting the school year after next.

The group has talked to other schools that expanded to full-day kindergarten – Chichester, Allenstown and Barnstead, for example – to learn from their experience, she said. Right now, the committee estimates a full-day program would require the district hire 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 one-time supply costs, she 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.

Scheiderer said she expects the committee will recommend to the school board that it put full-day kindergarten on the warrant next March. But she conceded it could be a tough sell, both to some members on the school board and to the town at large.

“We did not pass our school budget this year, so definitely convincing our community of its value is going to be important,” she said.

Scheiderer said there’s a possibility the district will save money in the long run on special education because a full-day program will better allow for early interventions. But the better argument, she said, is that Epsom’s students are at a competitive disadvantage.

The school district is the last in SAU 53 – which also includes Allenstown, Chichester, Pembroke and Deerfield – to operate a half-day program. Meanwhile, the vast majority of school districts in New Hampshire now offer full-day kindergarten. 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.

“While there is a potential for some cost savings, it’s mostly about providing a better starting place for the children of Epsom,” she said.

The committee is expected to present to the school board in June.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)

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