Board OKs busing for 270 students

HUDSON – The School Board took its first steps down the long, winding path toward public kindergarten implementation Monday by voting unanimously for two-way bus transportation for the estimated 270 children expected to enroll for the 2009-10 year.

The special meeting, attended by about 20 residents and visitors, began an indefinite string of weekly, rather than the usual bi-weekly, meetings for the board as it prepares to tackle the complicated startup process that will likely run well into the summer.

The board next meets Monday at 6:30 p.m., then Wednesday, April 15, at 5 p.m. and Monday, April 20, at 6:30 p.m.

Superintendent Randy Bell said he wanted the transportation issue resolved first, so parents will have at least that much information going into the registration period, which begins Wednesday. (See related information box for times and details).

While parents can still register their children after the set registration sessions, board Chairman Gary Rodgers said that early registrations will help the process by providing the district with an accurate number of enrollees by mid-April.

Two-way buses for kindergarteners would cost roughly $180,000, according to estimates in the series of implementation scenarios that Bell presented at the meeting.

Other topics that the board will tackle in future meetings include whether to bring in portable classrooms, utilize existing space by combining or relocating present classes, or a combination.

Staffing is also up in the air. Variables include how many new teachers and paraprofessionals would be hired, and what the class sizes would be. Although state regulations permit up to 25 pupils per classroom for first and second grades, Bell strongly recommended following the district’s maximum of 20 for kindergarten as well.

Funding, meanwhile, also has its variables. One set figure, though, is the $1,725 per-pupil allotment from the state. The amount the town would expend, Bell said, depends on the formula that the board settles upon down the road. According to his proposals, the number could range from zero to just past $300,000.

State Rep. Lars Christiansen, a longtime Hudson resident and former School Board member, told the board the state was wrong to force public kindergarten on Hudson and other towns.

“To me, what has happened here is a violation of (SB) 28A,” Christiansen said, referring to legislation that prohibits the state from forcing a so-called “unfunded mandate” on school districts. The legislation was the crux of Hudson’s lawsuit against the state, which it dropped in the wake of a superior court ruling last week.

“These people (legislators) take the oath to uphold the Constitution then tromp all over it,” Christiansen continued. “They don’t have the power to tromp on a two-thirds vote of the people,” he added, referring to voters’ rejection of the kindergarten warrant March 10.