School Committee approves full-day kindergarten in Woonsocket

School Committee approves full-day kindergarten in Woonsocket

WOONSOCKET – The Woonsocket School Committee voted 4-1 to reinstate full-day kindergarten in city schools on Thursday, July 25, with committee member Christopher Roberts casting the sole dissenting vote, but because of the program's long-term fiscal impact, it looks as though the district may still need the OK from the city's Budget Commission.

Woonsocket has received a $500,000 Community Service Grant from the General Assembly to restart the program, but some city officials have questioned if the city, still in the midst of a fiscal crisis, will be able to support on-going full-day kindergarten.

According to Supt. Giovanna Donoyan, the increased enrollment that comes from implementing a full day of school for the city's youngest students will come with a corresponding increase in state education aid for the following fiscal year and beyond. But detractors, including Roberts and City Council President John Ward, say that while they support the concept, it is still unclear how the decision will affect city finances.

"The numbers provided, in my estimate, are overly optimistic," said Roberts. "The shortfall in the first year, on the projection sheet provided, was just under $200,000. When you embrace the reality of hiring teachers at all of these different steps and degrees, I believe the true shortfall after the legislative grant tops $500,000."

Ward estimated the hiring of teachers, with aides, could cost up to $1.5 million.

"That is why we should have had meetings to discuss this concept before going to the General Assembly for funding," he said.

The grant, which the city's legislators said they've been lobbying for all year, came as a surprise to both School Department and City Hall officials. It was announced this week when a list of the recipients of the $2 million CSG line item in the state budget became public.