Longmeadow Kindergarten Debate Continues
For many parents across the area kindergarten is free. But that isn’t completely the case for parents in Longmeadow. The state mandated half-day kindergarten program is covered by the town’s budget. But the school department decided to go forward with a full-day program as well to give parents another option, and students a more comprehensive kindergarten experience. The catch is that full-day program is anything but free.
The controversy over the price of kindergarten in Longmeadow started weeks ago. Parents were frustrated that the school department would charge $3,000 for students to enroll in a full-day kindergarten program. But for a town like Longmeadow, charging for kindergarten isn’t unusual.
“It’s unusual to see an affluent community not charging fees because we do not get as much Chapter 70 money, as much federal funding through grants such as title one or even through the kindergarten grants themselves,” explained Marie Doyle, Superintendent of Schools in Longmeadow.
This year Longmeadow did miss a deadline to apply for grants for additional money to help fund their full-day kindergarten program, but according to Superintendent Doyle, they may have decided to turn down that money anyways.
“In fact there were three districts this year that turned down kindergarten money because the amount of money they received from the DESC was not worth the strings that were attached to it,” said Doyle.
Strings like having to answer to the state and kindergarten accreditation. According to Superintendent Doyle, it would take hours upon hours of work from their staff. Still it seems that regardless of the fee, the majority of parents in Longmeadow do want their children to attend full-day kindergarten. Of over 100 families, only 16 have elected the half-day program.
“What we don’t know out of the 16 parents was one of the factors economic that they couldn’t afford the fee? So as we work with the town to try and come up with something down the road where we could actually help parents with the fees, we look forward to doing that,” Doyle told us.
Previously Superintendent Doyle did say that half-day kindergarten would not adequately prepare students for the common core standards of first grade. She amended that statement Friday.
” I think that the full day would be a wonderful program for all of our students. Can they do it in the half day? Yes, but if I had a preference for my child, I’d want the full day program,” she said.
But this debate is far from over. The next town meeting will be held on May 13th. There are plans for a motion to be made to have the full-day program be covered by the town budget. If that motion is approved, the full-day kindergarten program will be free for parents.
Superintendent Doyle also did say that those parents who elected half-day kindergarten will also receive a binder of information intended to help them supplement what their children learn in school.