Board wants cash to start kindergarten

MILFORD – The school board will ask voters at the March district meeting for money to start a kindergarten program in the 2009-10 school year.

Milford is one of 11 districts in the state without public kindergarten, but voters have rejected several past warrant articles to fund programs. Then in 2007, the state Legislature passed a law requiring school districts to offer education to 5-year-olds.

Portable classrooms will be the short-term solution to finding space for the roughly 160 children expected to attend kindergarten in 2009, Superintendent of Schools Bob Suprenant said.

The children would go into six classrooms of the Jacques Memorial Elementary School, displacing first grade and preschool students, and possibly student services.

“(The state’s) square footage requirements would be better satisfied in the building,” said the superintendent, rather than in portable classrooms.

The school board also intends to take advantage of state incentives that would pay for two double portable buildings, containing four classrooms, that would likely be placed near Jacques school.

The school board recently voted 3-0, with Peter Bragdon and Len Mannino abstaining, to implement kindergarten for the 2009-10.

Bragdon typically abstains from votes on kindergarten because he has a family interest in a private kindergarten. Mannino said he needed more information.

To start the program the district will need staff and materials, and those costs – roughly estimated at $500,000 – will also be offset by state aid of about $1,700 a student, the superintendent said.

As a step toward a long-term solution to the problem of offering kindergarten in Milford, the board will also offer a warrant article in March for building construction.

“My guess is that (the board) will review options we gave them last fall,” Suprenant said.

Those options include a stand-alone building at the Brox property and a four-room addition to Jacques, estimated at $2 million. ment funds would cover 75 percent.

The superintendent said the district estimates that about 80 percent of the expected 5-year-olds will attend public kindergarten. Parents still have the option of keeping their children at home until they are 6, and some will probably choose to send their children to private programs.

Portables might be needed for two school years, the superintendent said, because permanent construction might not be ready for the 2010 school year.

The Legislature included public kindergarten as a requirement for all schools in its definition of an adequate education adopted last year. That law gave communities without kindergarten until September 2008 to offer programs, and then it extended that deadline an extra year.

Other towns with kindergarten include Hudson, Litchfield, Lyndeborough, Mascenic, Mason, Pelham, Auburn, Chester, Derry, Salem and Windham.