Citizens attending Monday night’s Board of Education community-input session focused their comments primarily on the concept of full-time kindergarten, an idea the board plans to discuss at its meeting on Jan. 17.
Danielle Ladia has a child in first grade at Oakdale Elementary, and 3-year-old twin boys. Jackie Meislitzer teaches kindergarten in the Essex/Deep River/Chester district and has a third-grader and a kindergartener in Oakdale Elementary.
The women - two of the three community members at the meeting - said they think full-day kindergarten would be a good change for the town.
Now, a full day of learning is condensed into a half-day of kindergarten, Meislitzer said. Even at that, Ladia said, there’s not much actual learning time in that half-day. She estimated an hour and 45 minutes of actual educational time in the average half-day of kindergarten.
A full day would give pupils time to do bigger projects, get more individual attention from teachers, and have more social experiences, enriching the academic/social balance, Ladia and Meislitzer said.
More in-depth time with pupils could help teachers pick up on learning problems and issues earlier, Ladia said.
Mary Aledia, who teaches second grade at the Dr. Charles E. Murphy Elementary School, said she wanted to make sure that people understood that full-day kindergarten is “not about daycare all day. Really it’s about instruction and making sure our students are prepared for first grade and second grade. With our half-day now, it’s really doing an injustice to our students.”
Liz Dumond, who teaches at Mohegan Elementary, attended the meeting as a member of the community, and focused her comments on her memoriesof what happened when a Massachusetts town where she used to live began to cut school programs to comply with a tax cap.
Class sizes grew enormous, programs were gutted, and the school system was nearly taken over by the state. The predicament was aboided because, Dumond said, after years of slashing the budget, the town passed a multi-million dollar override of the tax cap.
“It’s a slippery slope,” she said, when you begin to slash programs as a way to balance the budget.
"We are so lucky here," she said. "You don’t even want to start the slippery slope. Here, each year, through the creativity of the board and the people of the town, it hasn’t happened."
There's another session tonight, at 5:30 p.m., in the library/media center of Montville High School. The public is invited to come and talk with the board members and Superintendent Pamela Aubin and her staff.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the role of the state of Massachusetts in the school system of the town where Liz Dumond lived, and the amount of time devoted to education in a half-day of kindergarten.