By Patricia Bogumil

Editor

Waterford Graded School District Superintendent Chris Joch recently shared with the Waterford Post his views on the topic of four-year-old kindergarten for the Waterford Graded district.

The 4K subject was most recently discussed March 10 at a Personnel and Finance Committee meeting.

In February, the school board tasked Joch with conducting an extensive financial analysis of the pros and cons of bringing 4K to the district.

Joch’s insights and observations on the 4K topic follow.

 

4K from the school district’s perspective

Four-year-old kindergarten is a topic that has been discussed periodically the past several years in the board committee venue.

In most conversations, the topic did not materialize into a lengthy study due to space limitations in the buildings, philosophical beliefs of the district’s need to provide such a program, or lack of a prevailing academic disparity of incoming students warranting a district-wide program.

The most extensive conversations took place this past summer of 2013.  At that time, the Board struggled to find research that supported starting such a program in a district like WGSD with similar community demographics and academic achievement that would warrant such a program and have a lasting academic impact.

Thus, the Title One Preschool for Waterford Graded students was started.

 

Joch’s own opinion about 4K

As I have told others, I am indifferent about it in this community’s venue. I see both sides of the issue and feel it’s ultimately a Board decision after the various factors have been studied and deliberated.

If the Board approves the program, our team of professionals will work diligently to design a program of which the community can be proud.

Should the Board choose not to move forward, I’d respect that decision as well knowing the different issues it creates for the community.

 

View of different sides

of the issue

      A part of the Waterford Graded community is interested in having the program, and WGSD is one of the few districts in the state which does not have such a program, so I understand the desire to have a 4K program.

Yet, there is not a pressing academic need to have the program, especially since WGSD has a four-year-old preschool that is an intervention program to prepare children for 5K.

There may be long-term benefits of offsetting the district’s declining enrollment; however, taxpayers would need to be comfortable with:

•  absorbing start-up costs through a larger-than-normal levy increase (3 percent to 4 percent) beyond a typical increase of 2 percent; or

• drawing from the district’s fund balance, which is not necessarily good practice because of the potential impact on the district’s ratings for borrowing purposes.

There may be an impact on local businesses by shifting the customer base to the school system, which warrants sensitivity.

 

Joch’s professional experience with 4K

As the elementary principal in a previous district, I started a 4K program about 10 to 11 years ago. At the time, there were many goals motivating the start-up of the program.

It was a blended program of 4K children and early childhood special education students. The program was received nicely and remains in place today.

 

Likely next steps for studying 4K here

Community members should understand that, despite advocacy for the program by some citizens, no decisions have been made whether or not the program should be approved. The topic remains in committee and I can’t predict the outcome at this point.

A financial analysis will continue because of the budget ramifications (both short- and long-term).  Should it be forwarded to the full Board for a vote, and it passes, I would see the program starting in 2015-16.