May 17, 2016
At the Committee of the Whole Meeting on Thursday May 12 there was some additional discussion around implementing full day kindergarten. It seems clear that the board intends to implement the new program for 2017-18 and the Superintendent is anxious to close the issue one way or the other rather than continue discussion.
Charles Beatty introduced a financial projection that complements the information put out by the Administration. He developed a scenario to represent the cost impact of additional students who are likely to appear in the Avon Grove system if FDK is introduced that would otherwise have been at home , daycare or attended private/parochial schools at considerable cost to the parents. These students will drive the need to hire additional staff and purchase supplies not included in the projection provided by the Administration and accepted by the majority of the board to show FDK as ‘cost neutral’. The additional cost is approximately $900,000. Mr. Beatty assumed that 40 of these students would appear in Year 1 and 60 each year after, the same numbers that the Administration assumed would join AGSD versus attending the Charter School. The Superintendent suggested that there is no basis for this addition though according to Mr. Beatty 70-80 students attend 1st grade that are not seen in either the AGCS or AGSD kindergarten programs. Board President Bonnie Wolff suggested that there was no way to know how many parents would choose the new FDK program over the other extremely expensive alternatives. Assumption BVM FDK costs $5300/yr and London Grove Friends FDK is $7000/yr as two local examples of the cost of private FDK. Some parents may still choose private or parochial schools anyway, regardless of cost, but it is reasonable to assume that a majority would choose a free program with roughly equivalent educational value.
Herman Engel, who has been visibly frustrated by the challenge to the FDK program on a number of occasions, suggested that the board should not have to actually vote to implement the new program. Rather that the implementation would be approved under the umbrella of the 2016-17 budget approval since it includes some preliminary funding to start the engineering and permit approvals for the modular classrooms that will be installed. By this rationale approval of any component of FDK translates to full approval of the program. This approach is similar to the trend of staffing additions approved in the past included in the next budget where the full board never publicly considers and discusses the merits of the individual positions. The additional staff is approved along with the budget for the following year. Pat Walker suggested that the AGSD lawyers be consulted on this approach to implement FDK without a specific vote on the new expenses.