SUMMIT – The Board of Education is again considering full-day kindergarten for the 2014 school year, but this time the proposal includes paid tuition.Last week the Education Committee proposed and endorsed a tuition paid full-day kindergarten, pointing out the suggested fee of $5,500 was more than enough to cover the extra cost of putting the program in place. It would also provide enough income to cover the tuition needs of students whose families could not afford the expense.
Last May the idea of a full-day kindergarten was discussed but the board voted down the concept because it was estimated it could cost up to $5 million to expand current facilities in order to accommodate such a program.
Subsequently the board rejected the Education Committee’s five-year plan and the committee was sent back to the drawing board to come up with a proposal that was not as costly.
The Board of Education did suggest at that time they would be more interested in a pilot program that was cost-neutral while using existing facilities.
In July the committee came back before the board with Chairman Edgar Mokuvos explaining that full-day kindergarten would not have the same scope as the five-year plan they previously proposed.
Although a specific per-pupil charge was still being investigated at that time, Mokuvos did mention that revenue generated from paying parents would enable children without the financial means to receive either full or partial tuition scholarships.
Board member David Dietz told board of education members that even in a worst case scenario the program would cost $300,000, with all but $130,000 covered by fees. He felt implementing this type of kindergarten program would actually cost around $150,000 and attract students from the district’s half-day program. The program would accommodate 40 students divided among two classes, with approximately 25 percent of that number non-tuition paying.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Business Louis Pepe said tuition estimates were based on fees currently charged by Madison for their publicly operated full-day kindergarten and The Connection, which operates a full-day kindergarten using Summit school district’s facilities.
Based on these numbers, he estimated $4,150 of the $5,500 tuition would cover per-pupil costs with the rest going toward paying for those students who could not afford the program.
However, some board members were uncomfortable with the proposal. James Freeman said community members were expecting a pilot program that did not have a cost attached to it, suggesting the community be tapped to see if there was interest in such a program prior to moving forward.
Board Vice-President Celia Colbert explained that the pilot-program would be a limited offering that would demonstrate one way or another if such a program would have an educational benefit.
Dietze pointed out that the district had enough space for more than two classrooms and he felt there was no harm in permitting paying students to support those who could not afford the tuition. He also felt that starting another full-day kindergarten would not impact other existing programs sponsored by the churches or community groups.
Superintendent of Schools Nathan Parker said current figures showed only 10-percent of students in each grade were eligible for free or reduced lunch program, which would reduce the 25 percent estimate number of non-paying students.
The board will meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Jefferson Primary Center, 110 Ashwood Ave. Residents can comment on the program prior to the board taking further action.