The Westford School Committee will decide later this year on whether to bring full-day kindergarten to town and the citizens they assembled to give them a recommendation on whether to move forward began their work on Wednesday.
While School Department Superintendent Bill Olsen told the assorted members of the
citizens’ committee he could not be an active member at the School Committee’s request, he told the 11 residents assembled what was expected of them as well as how he could act as a resource in their report.
“(The School Committee) will know whether or not you advocate strongly for full-day kindergarten in Westford,” said Olsen. “The real thing is determining the value between full-day kindergarten versus half-day kindergarten.”
All members of the committee said in their introductions that they have at least one child either in Westford’s schools or on track to begin school in the future. Several held jobs or have held jobs in education and almost all hold postgraduate degrees, with Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Mierz holding three.
Some preliminary questions were asked over whether there might be a “bubble” from the enrollment boom the past few decades that is now tailing off, with those families leaving town as their children graduate from Westford Academy being potentially replaced in a few years with families that have younger children.
Olsen told the board that enrollment had slightly decreased over recent years, although demographic changes may shift rapidly due to new developments in town.
He handed off the board to elected co-chairs Robert Michael and Suzanne Gibbons telling the board they would need to investigate the costs and benefits of kindergarten in other communities, gather various studies and determine specific logistical options for consideration.
However, he said one thing the citizens’ committee would not be required to do is recommending whether parents should pay for full-day kindergarten, saying he would advise the School Committee that if full-day kindergarten is implemented, it should be paid for by the town.
“My feeling is that we’re either all in or all out.”
An expected report by the citizens’ committee on whether Westford should or shouldn’t have full-day kindergarten is expected in February.
However, Olsen told the board he expected any recommendation to begin full-day kindergarten would not be implemented until the 2015-2016 School Year due to likely School Committee meetings to dissect the citizens’ committee findings as well as informing the public on those findings.
There are only ten communities in the state without full-day kindergarten. Technically, Westford is not classified as one of them by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as full-day kindergarten is provided for special needs students at the Miller School.
The committee will meet next Thursday at 7 p.m.