Full-day K requires reorganizing Woonsocket middle schools

Full-day K requires reorganizing Woonsocket middle schools

WOONSOCKET - Financial concerns may have thwarted a full-day kindergarten program in the past, but with new leaders in city government, Supt. Giovanna Donoyan may find support for her latest proposal, scheduled to be presented to the Budget Commission at a work session Feb. 10.

Accomplishing it will take some student shuffling at all seven of the city's elementary schools as well as creation of a new 5th- and 6th-grade academy at the middle school known as Villa Nova.

According to a PowerPoint presentation first discussed last month, 17 5th-grade classrooms would be moved from the elementary schools and established at Villa Nova, and the resulting openings used to create 11 new kindergarten classrooms.

Donoyan has estimated that in the first year, including start-up costs and teachers, the program would cost $1.09 million, but with the help of grants, the district could not only cover the expense, but still come out $297,774 in the black. The projected windfall is expected, in part, to come from a $682,881 increase in state aid.

"We have been working diligently, trust me, on the specifics, the logistics and the finances to pull this off," said school board Chairman George Lacouture. "Barring any earthquake, my opinion is we will have all-day K next year."

Seventh- and 8th-grade students would move to the second, twin middle school facility on Florence Drive known as Hamlet.

The Budget Commission vetoed a different plan for creation of a full-day program just six months ago, but the advance timing, and the addition of a vocally supportive mayor to the board, could create a different outcome this time around.

Last June, then-state Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt secured a $500,000 grant from the General Assembly to help with the city's kindergarten start-up costs. The grant was announced in July, however, leaving school officials scrambling to instantly make plans in a municipality still teetering on the brink of financial collapse.

Then-Mayor Leo Fontaine and Council President John Ward both questioned the proposal put forth at the time, saying, in part, that Donoyan had not set aside enough money for out-of-district placements.

Fontaine and Ward, however, lost their positions in city government during the November elections, and were replaced on the commission by Baldelli-Hunt and new council head Albert Brien.

Proponents point to studies that demonstrate that having a full-day kindergarten program can actually lower subsequent schooling costs. Full-day kindergarten has been credited with higher academic achievement, better student attendance, greater literacy and language development, and positive social and emotional development.

Woonsocket's program was cut to half-time several years ago as a cost-saving mechanism, but some argue that the corresponding loss in state aid which accompanies decreased enrollment numbers outweighed any perceived cost benefit.

Still, not all residents are sold on the plan.

"The superintendent's PowerPoint outlined the benefits of full-day kindergarten, while offering few details about the educational and financial impact on middle school students and their families," said Tonya Curt-Hoard.

"How many of us taxpayers would have voted to build middle schools if we knew in just a few years one of the middle schools would be turned into an elementary school and the other would begin to resemble a junior high?"

Hoard also points out that the current plan dedicates only $10,000 to moving expenses, although 50 percent of the district's classrooms would be involved in the move. She also noted that no money had been set aside for additional teacher's assistants.

In December, Woonsocket was one of several communities to receive an additional RIDE grant for start-up kindergarten expenses, to the tune of $72,928. School officials in Cranston voted last month to decline a similar grant, however, saying the district would not be able to support on ongoing program.

Both the RIDE grant, and the $500,000 legislative grant, come with the stipulation that Woonsocket must continue an all-day kindergarten program for at least five years.

"Full-day kindergarten is a luxury that we can't afford," said Curt-Hoard.

Residents are expected to hear more on the plan over upcoming months beginning with the work session next week. The School Committee must still approve the plan, and parents of 5th- and 6th-grade students affected by the change are expected to be offered tours of Villa Nova Middle School in March.

Donoyan hopes to begin the program at the start of the school year next fall. The PowerPoint presentation on the program can be viewed at mywoonsocket.com .

Comments

Great article by Sandy Senoane! In this article, Ms. Tonya Curt-Hoard commented that full-day kindergarten (FKD) is a "Luxury we can't afford." She is so right! Our School Dept. claims that they have adequate funding to implement FDK; however, this funding is only for its first-year. The FDK program requirement is for the City to sustain it for another four years. Where will THOSE FUNDS come from.......maybe from our taxes???

No offense Pauline, but you sound like the typical sour old bat from Woonsocket. You watched the city go into the toilet and refuse to help pick up the pieces. You had all day Kindergarten. I had all day Kindergarten. However, the kids in the city that YOU left are not worthy of the same education that you received. You have impeccable grammar and punctuation and I applaud you for that. Plz dont deprive future generationz of that witch u hold deer for da sake of a couple bucks. I bet you'd be one of the first to chide a student for such disregard of the written language. It all begins in FDK, my friend. Luxury lol.

No offense, Your Neighbor, but the city went into the toilet because of the school department was spending money they didn't have. Now supposedly this will give us a surplus. Check your facts again. They are doing away with a previously budgeted position. That money should be used to pay down the debt. This sounds like the creative accounting we had from the previous business manager.

How much learning do you think will happen in Kindergarten if the teacher is by herself for half the day with 25 students since they are not adding more teacher assistants like we had! I certainly wouldn't want a fire to happen. Not safe at all. Can you imagine getting 25 5-year-olds out of a building all by yourself?

Learning doesn't come from FDK. It comes from families valuing education and making sure their child attends school every day. Have you looked at the attendance rates for the schools at RIDE's web site? They are atrocious!

On the radio yesterday a caller stated that research shows that any gains from FDK are gone by 3rd grade. What do you think will happen to a child's educational and social learning by being packed into buildings of 1000 for 4 years?

There are plenty of children in advanced classes at the high school who had only half a day Kindergarten, and they are succeeding because their families value education that us taxpayers provide for FREE! But enough is enough when it comes to creating more and more debt! Our children will be having to pay for these decisions.

No offense, Your Neighbor, but the city went into the toilet because of the school department spending money they didn't have. Now supposedly this will give us a surplus. Check your facts again. They are doing away with a previously budgeted position. That money should be used to pay down the debt. This sounds like the creative accounting we had from the previous business manager.

How much learning do you think will happen in Kindergarten if the teacher is by herself for half the day with 25 students since they are not adding more teacher assistants like we had! I certainly wouldn't want a fire to happen. Not safe at all. Can you imagine getting 25 5-year-olds out of a building all by yourself?

Learning doesn't come from FDK. It comes from families valuing education and making sure their child attends school every day. Have you looked at the attendance rates for the schools at RIDE's web site? They are atrocious!

On the radio yesterday a caller stated that research shows that any gains from FDK are gone by 3rd grade. What do you think will happen to a child's educational and social learning by being packed into buildings of 1000 for 4 years?

There are plenty of children in advanced classes at the high school who had only half a day Kindergarten, and they are succeeding because their families value education that us taxpayers provide for FREE! But enough is enough when it comes to creating more and more debt! Our children will be having to pay for these decisions.

Dear "Your Neighbor":

First, thank you for the compliment of my being a "sour old bat from Woonsocket", as you proved the type of person you must be. The reason people ATTACK their opponents vs. STICKING TO THE ISSUES is usually because they have NO FACTS.

For your information, maybe YOU had all-day Kindergarten, but I never did; however, I consider myself very fortunate to have had an "impeccable" education through the dedication and commitment of the "good old nuns". Apparently, full-day Kindergarten didn't help YOU much because the grammatical skills in your reply indicate that they need "a little fine-tuning"---and that's a fact! Enough said.

Also, I'm glad that YOU view having full-day K as spending "JUST A FEW BUCKS"----I don't. If you remember correctly, one of the reasons our City is in a state of deficit is/was due to our School Department's mismanagement of funds. NOW, should everyone forget the past events and readily ACCEPT the School Department's proposals without question? I don't think so!

"IT" does NOT all begin in KINDERGARTEN....."IT" begins at HOME with responsible parents, such as with the "TYPICAL SOUR OLD BATS from Woonsocket"; however, this is a topic for another day.

I don't know if you, in particular, feel that you/your children [if any] are ENTITLED to the full-day Kindergarten option, but it sure sounds like it. Enough said on THAT subject matter as well!

Lastly, it would be very "interesting" to know what your real name is, "Your Neighbor". Why are you hiding your name?

Maybe some day, we will meet and AGREE that we have the RIGHT to DISAGREE!

The city has been swirling in the toilet for over two decades now. The last five years have acerbated the situation even more since the decades of neglect have finally hit people in the wallets.

The money being handed over by the State is strictly for use in FDK, it cannot be applied to other programs or previous debt. If we don't use it, we lose it (see Cranston). This will not create a surplus to the school. The added funding for this program will be exhausted within 3 years, and then the city must pick up the remainder. However, should the most recent State budget pass, the city should expect to see no net change in cost by that third year. Essentially, we are getting money to jump start the program and money to fully fund the program. FDK for free?

FWIW, having 1 teacher per public Kindergarten class is the norm. Adding an assistant is the exception. As for fires, lol, kids don't die in school fires...at least not in the last 50 years.

You might want to change your from therealtruth to iforgottodothehomework.

As far as the intangibles of FDK and modern family structure, I'll let you have fun with that.

Dear "Your Neighbor":

We could go back and forth with this conversation which, in my opinion, would be a waste of time. As I previously noted, "We have the RIGHT to DISAGREE", and we are disagreeing. Thus, this will be my last comment regarding this subject matter.

You are correct when stating, "...decades of neglect have finally hit people in the wallets." I totally AGREE with you because as you know, that's the only time people react openly towards issues-----which they appear to be doing now.

Cranston's School Committee is to be commended for having voted against the FDK program. They were smart enough to realize that they couldn't afford it. Grant funds are only "dangling carrots" to "suck in" communities into various programs which they can't/couldn't afford to maintain. Oh! Everything sounds soooo good at first, but later it is soon discovered that the allocated funds were NOT sufficient enough to continue to operate whichever program.

Yes, you're correct, the grant monies ARE strictly for FDK and cannot be applied to other programs....and yes, again, if we don't USE IT we LOSE IT! Well, are you seriously thinking that grant funds and State funding will 'carry us through' for the next five (5) years?

You wrote, "Essentially, we are getting money to jump start the program and money to fully fund the program." Yes, we are getting money to jump-start the program, but WHERE will the money be coming from to FULLY FUND the program? I know WHERE it will come from-----from YOUR WALLET and MINE----which means, in the long run, HIGHER TAXES!

You also wrote, "...should the most recent State budget pass, the city should expect to see no net change in cost by that third year". Do you REALIZE that our State is in a STATE OF DEFICIT as well? Their budget doesn't look any better than ours. The best quote I can think of using in this instance is, "THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND"!

You also seem to be under the impression that in the long run, the FDK could/would be free? Are you serious...since when has any program been free?

Well, although we DON'T agree at least, we are both trying to do what we feel is best for our City. By the way, you DO live in the City, don't you?

Dear "Your Neighbor"

Like Pauline, this is the last response to your comments. RIDE's standards for anyone wanting to open a Kindergarten or preschool is that there is a 15 to 1 ratio in the room.

https://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/inside-ride/Laws-Reg...

Just because a fire hasn't happened doesn't mean it can't. Fire is unpredictable.

Thank you for pointing out that there won't be a surplus since The Call's headline today makes it seem that we will. I agree there won't be a surplus because this is going to put us deeper into debt on the back of residents who want to keep and working hard to keep their homes.

If the city has been in the toilet for 2 decades then why are you still here? Again like Pauline I don't believe you live here and won't have to live with the ramifications of this proposal.

Let's look at this issue even deeper. In the Cranston Hearald on January 23,2013, Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judith Lundsten spoke of the "devil in the details" in regards to the full day kindergarten grant. The details being that the funding could be used for only "start up costs associated with classrooms and not to cover salaries, benefits or teaching assistants." These funds could pay for new carpeting, classroom supplies, room renovations and computers. Cranston received $99,000.00 while Woonsocket received $72,928.00. If implemented, Woonsocket would need to hire 11 new teachers. There is no money for full-time teacher assistants, so who helps in a class of 25 students for the other half of the day? Remember RIDE says that a kindergarten classrooms should have only 15 students per class. If implemented,we will exceed class maximums by 10 students per class!

How else can this be implemented? Remember those new middle school buildings that taxpayers approved a few years back? They were built to hold 800 students each. Middle School students, not elementary students. The 5/6 academy will hold over 900 students. The building will exceed the building capacity of 800 students.State regulations require that in a middle school, classrooms should be 950 sq. feet per student. Science classrooms should not exceed 1200 sq. feet per student. Teachers are already being paid overage pay because some classes are exceeding their number of students. Now we want to jam even more students in the buildings?

Here's is what Dr. Donoyan is proposing; dividing classrooms, possibly cutting the libraries in half, moving art and music teachers out of their classrooms. Remember when the buildings were built? These classrooms were designed to teach chorus and band. The art rooms were built with a kiln to allow students to do ceramic classes. These will be things of the past. These teachers will now have only a cart to move from class to class. Gone will be the cermic projects. In one building the woodshop class will be taken apart to build more classroom space. Yet I thought that the building's square footage was not to exceed 800 students?

I say that it is time for the people of Woonsocket to stand up and voice their concerns to the school board and the budget committee this week. It appears that things have not been fully thought out. The things that scares me the most is that Dr. Donoyan used misrepresented facts to in her attempts to get this thing approved. Read her powerpoint, it comes from an article on the loss of learning that happens over the summer. It never mentions kindergarten. It speaks of after school and summer programs. Let's look for other options. Let's stop this until all options have been put on the table.

Where are you people getting your garbage info? Class size for K is not to exceed 24 kids, 15 is the goal. Woonsocket already received $500k, unrestricted from the state(this does include teacher salaries). We also get an additional $72k for initial start up.

Anyway, I'm out of this conversation because I'm being hit with misinformation from 3 directions and being asked to support real facts. Have one of these:
http://www.mywoonsocket.com/uploads/RI_GA_Grant_FDK_Questions.pdf

Regarding the logistics of relocating the program, that I am skeptical on. We closed down the schools that would accommodate the re-implementation of FDK. We used to have this program 4 years ago and it ran fine. It's like closing down the library and then trying to find a place for all those books. Shouldn't have closed it in the first place.

Yes, I do live in the city...pretty much my whole life. 2 property taxes, 1 car tax, 1 income tax, 0 kids, and I use way less public resources than anyone else on here. Thanks for the concern.

Dear Your Neighbor,
First of all the tone of your reponses do not help getting people to see your side. You get more bees with honey than vinger. More honey and less vinger please. We need to have adult and polite discussions on this vital topic.

Now let's once again look at the facts. Go back to your link. It states that there should be a "1:12 ratio with a maximum of 24 students." Let me break it down for you. When you see 1:12 it means 1 adult per 12 students. Yes it does say no more than 24 per class, but with a 1:12 ratio that means that there needs to be 2 adults in the class. As purposed by the superindentent, there would be 25 per classroom with 1 teacher and a half time teacher assistant. Going back to your link again, it states that "adult/ child ratios shall be maintained at all times." Having a half time TA in a class of 25 violates this clause. In fact regardless of how may adults are in the class, no more than 24 students should be in the class. What we saying is not garbage, it is the regulations that have been set forth by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE).

BAH! I wanted to remove myself from this, but I got egged on. FWIW, vinegar gets the stink out of damp towels. Something sure does stink.

That link is specifically for Comprehensive Early Education Programs(ie Headstart). It does not apply to Kindergarten when included in a K-12 curriculum. The only control on class size is governed through the Teacher's Union Agreement. In Woon, this limits class size to 25. Class size can further be reduced through incentives. The State and Fed offer money if you can shrink the classroom and/or student ratio. This is voluntary.

If you can find me a RI statute or Woon ordinance that defines mandatory class size or student/teacher ratio, other than a teacher's contract, I will write "I am wrong and I am a loser" 100 times.

Let's once again reread your information. These requirements are for headstart programs, day care centers, AND for "a program housed in a public or private K-12 school, meeting the physical facility requirements of the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education". So explain to us why the 1:12 ratio not to exceede 24 students does not apply in the case of full day kindergarten in the Woonsocket Public Schools. Please do not misrepresent the facts as the superintendent has done in her attempt to get this passed.

As far as the Woonsocket Teachers Guild's contract goes, you need to understand something about how a collective bargaining agreement works. State Law supercedes contract agreements. If 25 students in a kindergarten classroom with only a half time TA is violating the law, then that clause in the contract would be null and void.

You are conveniently leaving out "Comprehensive". There is nothing comprehensive about one single grade level in an elementary school program, namely Kindergarten. If you house a Comprehensive Early Education Programs(ie Headstart) in a K-12 school, then you are bound by said approval process. It also applies to private stand-alone Kindergarten classes.

If you feel so confident in your understanding of the law, I challenge you to go to the meeting tonight at 6pm. Walk to the microphone with your "regulations", hold them up and repeat what you just wrote in the comment above.

For extra credit: go to one of the hundreds of Kindergarten classrooms in the state with only 1 teacher and yell "Violation".

Hey Your Neighbor,
You are so wise, so rude and so willing to challenge those who disagree with you while being hidden behind this blog. Why don't you stand up tonight at the meeting and reveal yourself with your misrepresented facts. In fact each time someone from the city stands up and disagrees with you, why not stand up and yell " sour old bat from Woonsocket." If you are so in the know why have we not heard you call in on the radio talk shows this weekend? In fact the majority of the callers are opposed to this. Members from school committes of the past, a past mayor as well as concerned citizens of this great city, or as you refer to them as sour old bats.Why not reveal yourself? Let the taxpayers know that you respond only when egged on by someone else. In fact who is egging you on and why? Is it soneone from the Superintendent's office? An important issue such as this should be discussed as adults, not by name calling, or being egged on.

You still have yet to reveal in your link from the mywoonsocket site who is asking the questions. You still have not revealed who is answering the questions. You still have not revealed when such questions where asked. You are so fixated at full day kindergaten that you refuse to defend why we should put our middle school students at a disadvantage for FDK. Do you not know that most of the Title 1 money will be diverted from the middle school students? Guess what most of them had, FDK. How will these students get the help needed in math and reading? Have you looked at the NECAP scores over the last few years? Look them up. They are poor. Yet you want to take the math and reading people from them. I guess you don't care about their educations because I guess you see them as future sour old bats from Woonsocket.