Board seeks best way to start kindergarten

HUDSON – As the dust continues to settle in the wake of the court ruling announced last week and subsequent School Board votes that effectively put to rest the long-debated kindergarten issue, the board and Superintendent Randy Bell have begun looking for the smoothest and most economical route toward successful public kindergarten implementation this fall.

The board, at a special meeting last Monday, agreed to move its regular April 6 meeting up to Monday at 5 p.m. to air its plans and get input from the public. The meeting will be held in the selectmen’s meeting room on the lower level of Town Hall.

Bell said he has prepared “about five different proposals” that involve varied economic scenarios aimed at instituting the best possible kindergarten program with the least impact on taxpayers.

“We’re moving forward quite fast,” Bell said. “We want to get the program in place as soon as we can.”

There is one little hitch, but neither the school district nor representatives of the state attorney general’s office expect it will hamper the process, Bell said.

At issue is the conflict that arose after Superior Court Judge James Barry denied a district injunction and ruled that Hudson must have kindergarten in place for the 2009-10 school year. The order goes against the wishes of voters, who defeated a kindergarten warrant article by a 2-1 margin on March 10.

Bell said district attorneys and representatives of the attorney general’s office have filed a joint stipulation asking the court to rule on which order takes precedence. While the answer isn’t expected until sometime this week, the two sides say Barry’s order will stand, Bell said.

“Even if the state doesn’t” rule that way, Bell said, “I’m sure we’ll be going forward (with kindergarten) anyway.”

In light of Barry’s ruling against the injunction, School Board members voted unanimously at last Monday’s special meeting to withdraw its 14-month-old “unfunded mandate” lawsuit against the state, then voted, again unanimously, to begin the process of getting kindergarten up and running by September.


Bell and the board agreed to move the April meeting to Monday so that kindergarten registration could start April 1.

The kindergarten flap began in early 2008, when Hudson filed suit claiming that the state Legislature’s mandatory kindergarten decision amounted to an “unfunded mandate” because the state wasn’t providing enough funding for the town “to do kindergarten the right way,” officials have said.

The state has refuted the district’s assertion, saying the state’s allowance easily meets the definition of “adequate funding.”

The state, as well as a number of local kindergarten advocates, have also argued Hudson won’t need school additions or “portables” because existing schools already have enough classroom space for the roughly 270 kindergarteners expected to enroll this fall.

But after Barry’s recent ruling, Bell said the district’s lawyers advised dropping the suit, citing the likelihood of a lengthy trial and the less than favorable odds of the district prevailing in the end.