WEYMOUTH — Superintendent Jennifer Curtis-Whipple is pleased to announce that registration has begun today for the newly implemented free full-day kindergarten program at Weymouth Public Schools for the 2020-21 school year.
“I am extremely happy that universal full-day kindergarten will be coming to Weymouth Schools,” Superintendent Curtis-Whipple said. “This is something that has been years in the making and will benefit our students, our district and our community for years to come. We still have a lot of work to do to make this a reality. But the commitment last week from the school committee members shows that we are all willing to do what it takes to get this accomplished.”
At their meeting on Nov. 14, all Weymouth School Committee members expressed support for universal full-day K. Six of the seven school committee members voted to approve the primary school configuration that includes full-day tuition free kindergarten, while one member voted “present.”
“This is a major milestone for the Weymouth Public Schools and something that has been an important goal of the school committee for a number of years,” Weymouth School Committee Chair Lisa Belmarsh said. “The budget process will continue as it does every year in order to finalize funding for full-day K, as well as other needs for the school department. This is a big win for parents and families in our community.”
CURRENT K PROGRAM
Currently, WPS offers 12 full-day and six half-day kindergarten classes for 348 students.
Because the district is not currently able to accommodate universal full-day K and due to limited class sizes, parents must enter into a lottery to determine if they are able to enroll their children in full-day kindergarten classes.
The current tuition cost per student is $3,500.
Weymouth is one of 47 communities in Massachusetts that charge tuition for full-day kindergarten enrollment. Of those 47 communities, Weymouth is one of 26 that charge $3,500 or more per student for full-day K. There are 305 communities in the state that offer tuition-free full-day K.
BENEFITS OF UNIVERSAL FULL-DAY K
The implementation of universal full-day K will be a great benefit to students, Weymouth families and the district in the short-term and long-term.
With universal full-day K, there would be no tuition cost for parents and the lottery system would be eliminated. This would help alleviate the stress that many Weymouth parents have had over the years, not knowing whether their child would be selected in the lottery or if they would need to find other options outside of the district.
Research has shown that students who go to a full-day of kindergarten have increased achievement levels, compared to students who went to half-day kindergarten, and are better prepared to enter the first grade.
In addition, staff may be able to sooner identify and assist with certain issues that students have, such as potential special learning needs, the need for enrollment in special education programs and assistance for English-language learners. Increasing the likelihood of identifying these potential issues sooner in students not only helps the students’ education and well-being in the long-run, but it may also present a cost savings for the district by getting students into the appropriate programs sooner.
There is also the potential for more Weymouth families to return to the district knowing that they would have the certainty of free full-day kindergarten for their children. Increased enrollment may mean more funding for the district from the state.
Options for breakfast and lunch will be made available to students enrolled in full-day K. This assures that all kindergarten students are receiving nutritious meals throughout the school day.
Finally, with the ultimate goal of aligning curriculum throughout the Weymouth Public Schools, universal full-day K creates equality and levels the playing field for all Weymouth families, not just the ones who are successful in the lottery and the ones who can afford tuition.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 348 – Enrolled Students
- 12 – Full-Day Classes
- 6 – Half-Day Classes
Additional Staff Needed for Free Full-Day K:
- 5 – K Teachers
- 8 – Para Professionals
- 6 – Specialists – two STEAM specialists, one physical education specialist, one art specialist and two music specialists
The current kindergarten program has 12 full-day classes and six half-day classes. The full-day K program would have 20 classes.
The total operating budget impact, including the hiring of new staff, for FY21-FY22 would be $1,488,826. Funds from the revolving fund balance may be used.
Full-Day K Needs
-add 5 K Teachers – $311,120
-add 8 Para Professionals – $147,816
-add 6 Specialists – $311,120
Subtotal – $770,056
All full-day K staff, including additional staff, after utilizing the revolving fund
Total – $718,770
Total for FY21-FY22 – $1,488,826
QUESTIONS ABOUT FUNDING
During the Nov. 14 school committee meeting, questions came up about the funding needed for the program, which includes the hiring of additional staff members.
The need to commit to the program now, instead of waiting for all available funding options later in the budget process, comes because parents need time to decide whether or not to enroll their children in full-day K and register.
While it is still early in the budget process, Superintendent Curtis-Whipple and members of the Weymouth School Committee are confident that the district has identified several areas where the funds could potentially come from. Those avenues include:
- The utilization of the revolving account for the current K program
- Savings already identified, and to be identified, in the current operations budget
- Funds anticipated to come from the state and town based on precedent seen in prior budgets over the past five years.
The district is committed to working closely with Mayor Robert Hedlund’s office to fund this initiative with as minimal impact to current school operations as possible.
A meeting to further discuss budget options and cost saving measures between school administrators, school committee members and Mayor Hedlund’s office is scheduled for early December.
OTHER QUESTIONS DURING THE MEETING
Other concerns that came up during the last school committee meeting included the question about additional space needed for new kindergarten classrooms and whether this program would have an impact on the school’s special education program.
Superintendent Curtis-Whipple would like parents to know that full-day K will have NO impact on the funding for special education programming. The district is committed to continuing to work and collaborate with parents about any further concerns or questions they may have in this regard.
As for the issue of classroom space, space for the full-day K program is available in all primary school buildings for 2020 and 2021.
Once the new Chapman School opens in 2022, there will be additional space available for all classrooms and programs.
In the short-term, while the new school is being built, some art teachers and music teachers will need to travel to students’ classrooms instead of having their own classrooms. This is only a temporary measure to allow for the full-day K program to go into effect.
“The need for some programs to be moved or temporarily relocated is going to come up as we move through the process of the Chapman School building project,” Superintendent Curtis-Whipple said. “We truly appreciate everyone’s cooperation and understanding in advance as this project will be a major undertaking for nearly everyone involved.”
Superintendent Curtis-Whipple is committed to keeping parents and families informed about the universal full-day K program. Further information and updates will be announced as it becomes available.