Glocester to receive state funds for all-day K

Glocester to receive state funds for all-day K

No funds for Smithfield

Glocester is one of four school districts that will receive state funds to help establish all-day kindergarten next year.

But neighboring Smithfield will not.

Funding by the Rhode Island Department of Education was announced early this week based on applications for the competitive one-time grants.

Glocester is slated to receive $33,000 to expand its half-day kindergarten to full-day at the start of the 2014 school year, Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist announced, with Cranston to get $99,072, Exeter-West Greenwich Regional $45,000 and Woonsocket $72,928.

Smithfield leaders had hoped to receive as much as $133,000 from the state to help defray the approximate $489,000 cost of bringing all-day kindergarten classes to its four elementary schools, possibly as soon as school's start next year. The district now has half-day classes.

State financial support was an important element of the expansion plan, school officials have said, although they always acknowledged that competition for the funding would be tough in part because Smithfield is financially better off than other places. A district's poverty level was considered by state leaders.

News of Smithfield's shut-out came during the School Committee meeting at the high school on Monday night.

No one seemed too perturbed about it. When budget work begins, in February, "we will continue on," said Chairman Richard B. Iannitelli. Asked if the loss puts all-day kindergarten at risk, Iannitelli replied: "We will look at other avenues. I wouldn't use the word 'risk.' It's a hurdle."

At a meeting in November, Supt. Robert O'Brien said if there is no state grant for all-day kindergarten other budget areas could be scaled back, and he mentioned professional development and infrastructure technology work.

In Glocester, Supt. Patricia A. Dubois announced less than four weeks ago that all-day kindergarten would begin in her town's two elementary schools, Fogarty Memorial and West Glocester, at the start of the next school year.

Dubois said she expects about 90 to 95 students to enroll, based on previous enrollments in the half-day program, but warned that it could be higher if parents who usually send their children to private programs choose Glocester's instead. Parents in town have requested all-day kindergarten each of the last four years at least, so Dubois has said she and other educators are excited to start the program at last.

Other than saying no taxpayer money will be needed to cover the added cost of the all-day classes, Dubois declined to specify what the extra price will actually be. A check of the district budget reveals $316,000 is now spent on kindergarten, out of a total $9.67 million Glocester school budget. Two extra teachers will be needed for the expansion, Dubois has said.

Regarding allotment of the state funds, a team from RIDE reviewed the applications and awarded funds based on the quality of the plan submitted, the quality of existing programming in the district, the capacity to start full-day kindergarten, the quality of key personnel, and the cost proposal, among other factors.

The four districts will use their funds to offset the one-time start-up costs of beginning a full-day kindergarten program, including such expenses as facilities upgrades, purchase of books and furniture, and curriculum development. The four districts receiving the funds will commit to maintaining the full-day kindergarten programs for at least five school years.

At present, according to RIDE, 22 school districts in Rhode Island (plus all eight charter public schools and state-operated schools with elementary-school grades) offer universal full-day kindergarten. There are eight districts that offer no full-day kindergarten (including Cranston, Exeter-West Greenwich, and Glocester) and five districts (including Woonsocket) that offer only limited full-day kindergarten.