Board discusses expanding pre-K program (Vassalboro)

by Mary Grow

At their Sept. 20 meeting, Vassalboro School Board members continued discussion of expanding the four-year-old (student) or pre-kindergarten program that’s beginning its second year at Vassalboro Community School.

The current program, which still had two openings as of Sept. 20, is affiliated with Head Start and therefore has income guidelines.  New school board member Libby Mitchell would like to have all four-year-olds able to enroll if their parents want them to.

AOS (Alternative Organizational Structure) #92 Superintendent Eric Haley said he had researched the question after August’s initial discussion.  He found that whether to start a program for four-year-olds is a local decision; the program requires state approval.

If Vassalboro were interested, he said, a letter of intent would need to be sent to the state commissioner of education by Jan. 1, 2017.  The letter would not commit the school department to follow through.

The first year of the new program would be financed by local funds.  The state would begin reimbursing the town the following year.  This year, Haley said, Vassalboro received $100,000 in state reimbursement for last year’s four-year-old students.

Committee members decided they should try to determine how many local parents would be interested in sending their four-year-olds to school.   They discussed possible ways to conduct a survey.

Mitchell said she believes educating four-year-olds is “a public responsibility,” and children should be able to start school before kindergarten regardless of income.  She does not believe sending four-year-olds to school should be mandatory, and she is not committed to a full-day (versus half-day) program.

Principal Dianna Gram said because Vassalboro’s four-year-old program is new, there is not yet evidence to determine whether it helps youngsters’ education.  Assessments are ongoing, she said.

In other business Sept. 20, school board members accepted the resignation of kindergarten teacher Pamela Blais and appointed kindergarten teacher Sarah Woodard and Educational Technician II Christian Wilkens.

The meeting was preceded by an informal gathering with new staff members.

The next Vassalboro School Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18.


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