Discussions at PTG meetings and student pick-up about next year's student placement have left some parents wondering if the district talk of reconfiguration would include full-day kindergarten. But school administrators say that full-day K is not part of this year's discussion. Instead, the focus will be on whether or not to move third grade classes from Meadowbrook and Frenchtown to Hanaford and Eldredge.
Supt. Victor Mercurio will be naming a subcommittee to research class and school configurations. It would not, Mercurio stressed, be looking at redistricting.
"The subcommittee will look at what works best for all schools in East Greenwich," said Mercurio.
He said the subcommittee will research how moving third graders up to Hanaford and Eldredge would affect the district in terms of space, enrollment projections, and the best grade configuration to support students. He also said they will be looking at how that would change the make-up of the lower elementary schools and the possibility of early learning centers.
"There are early learning centers around the state to look at for information," Mercurio said. While full-day kindergarten may be discussed, he said, it is not on the radar for starting next year.
Adding full-day kindergarten would require additional teachers at a time of ever-tightening budgets, making it a tough sell.
"The subcommittee could give a recommendation for full-day kindergarten to be looked at further, but that would more than likely require another subcommittee to be formed to look at that issue," said Mercurio.
Hanaford and Eldredge both only have two grades this year, . Principal Beth Cauley of Hanaford said things are going well at her school and it does not feel empty to her at all. "Because this is my first year here, I don't really have anything else to compare it to though," said Cauley.
She said the lunches went from three to two and that they use the new available space in the school for other things. "We were able to give art and music separate classroom spaces, and we created a great sensory classroom area for children who need it," Cauley said.
Domenic Giusti, principal at Eldredge, has been principal there for several years so he has a different perspective than Cauley. "Some days it does seem a bit quiet because there are fewer children, but overall it has been business as usual," Giusti said.
Giusti said they now use the extra space for a student break/sensory room, as well as one room to VOWS, an early intervention screening group to help screen and identify children in need of services in Warwick and in EG. "One of our other rooms has been designated the "robotics room" for grade 5," said Giusti.
Both principals said they could make room for incoming third graders if need be.
Parents around town have been talking about the possibility of the change in moving third graders up and opinions seem mixed.
"I'm in favor of the third grade moving to Eldredge and Hanaford," said Julie D'Amico, former PTG co-president at Frenchtown. She also said she thought this would provide an overall better use of EG public school facilities and it could open the opportunity for pre-K or full-day kindergarten at Frenchtown.
Beth Viera, another parent at Frenchtown, also supported the move. She said, "Frenchtown is too crowded. It's so crowded this year that the kindergarteners don't get gym. Eldredge has the space to house three grades. I don't know why it didn't happen this year."
Meadowbrook PTG co-president Amy Dator said she does not have an opinion about such a change, but that she does have some other concerns. "I am primarily concerned about making sure the decision happens in a manner that allows the schools affected to plan effectively. I do hope that if the third grade does move up that serious consideration is given to full-day kindergarten, especially given the increase in required competencies called for in the newly adopted core standards," Dator said.
Parents will have a chance to voice their opinions and concerns at forums in the near future. Mercurio said he will announce in December when the forums will be held. "I really want to hear how the community feels about it," said Mercurio.
Members of the subcommittee are yet to be determined, but Mercurio said it will include district administrators, principals, teachers, parents/community members and at least one School Committee member. The selection of subcommittee members should be determined soon.