Last night, the Nashoba School Committee continued debate on changes coming to district kindergarten in the fall. There were also several pieces of good news coming out of Nashoba Regional High School, and a glimpse at a new law calling for Massachusetts districts to continue educating suspended and expelled students.
Though the Committee approved a plan in February for transitioning all of Nashoba’s kindergartens into full-day classrooms come August, some parents apparently don’t want the plan. Stow Committee members pointed to several pieces of correspondence they have received from parents in favor of the district offering at least one dedicated half-day class. Another sign of support for half-day kindergarten comes from a petition located at change.org, posted by a group calling itself Concerned Citizens in Stow.
Currently, each Nashoba town has both half- and full-day classes, with families selecting which session they want their children to attend. There is a fee for full-day classes, that will continue to be applied. There is no charge for half-day classes.
With waiting lists growing in each town for full day, Superintendent Michael Wood successfully proposed transitioning Nashoba kindergartens into all full-day classes over three years. Until the transition is finished, families still can select half days, but these students simply would leave at the end of the morning session in a full-day class, rather than have their own classes.
Correspondence from parents protesting the elimination of half-day-only classrooms expressed concerns that half-day children will be upset when needing to leave their full-day friends midday, and that packing most of the required curriculum into the morning will rush the first half of the day.
Cynthia Maxfield, Nashoba’s Early Childhood Coordinator, said she will be visiting local districts, with Wood, that already offer mixed half/full-day kindergartens. She also told the Committee she would arrange for some concerned parents and daycare providers to join them.
A Stow parent in the audience emotionally spoke of feeling that, once she signed her child up in the fall for half-day, with the recent switch in format, “It’s like the wool was taken out from under us.” Referring to the district’s reasoning that it cannot afford a total switch to full-day right away, she asked, “Why not wait until you have the money?”
Wood replied, “This is a philosophical shift; too many parents want full day. We’re giving four years’ notice; that is what I’m trying to do.”
With the number of estimated half-day kindergarteners in Stow coming in at just under what would allow two dedicated classes, the parent asked why that could not happen just in Stow. Wood pointed out that the move would not fit with the district philosophy of treating each town equally. Bolton Co-Chair Nancy Federspiel also responded, “We voted the way we did because way more parents came in here, mad as heck that we didn’t have full day. While we really understand your position, I hope you understand why we voted the way we did, too.”
“It really isn’t going to be so different, many teachers have taught in this environment,” Maxfield assured.“ Most of the parents seem to think there will be more pros than cons.”
Rich Receives Accolades
Wood announced that Nashoba Athletic Director Tania Rich recently received the Ted Damko State Award. The Award is given to a school athletic administrator, with three to five years of experience, exemplifying the highest professional standards, and who has made significant contributions to the school and surrounding community.
Concession Stand Update
In an update on the new concession stand being built at the high school, Wood reported the concession complex should open in April, as long as a few warm days pop up to allow finishing the paint job. When calculating final costs, Wood estimated that, after accounting for change orders (due partly to unanticipated field conditions), the project ran over a grand total of about $65,000. He added that the goal is to absorb that overage in the Facilities Department budget.
Eight to Ninth Grade Transition
Responding to concerns voiced through the years that administration work on smoothing the transition from eighth grade to NRHS in the district, Wood unveiled a proposed formal transition schedule for these students. This starts with students receiving “career education” by December 15 of their Grade 8 year, stressing the importance of high school course selection to their futures. Students would then have a final course schedule in June for freshman year.
The biggest change addresses requests that “parents need to be more informed before the process starts,” said Wood. With parents asking to have course recommendations before they visit NRHS, administration has proposed an open house at the high school for eighth graders and their parents, after families receive course recommendations.
Education Plan for Expelled Students
Wood reviewed a new state law that mandates districts come up with a formal education plan for expelled or suspended students.
The student’s district also must submit the plan and updates to the state. The law goes into effect July 1. Wood said he feels the district’s “response to intervention initiative”- developing tools for helping underperforming and/or disengaged students – addresses many facets of this law.
Still, with no formal programs within Nashoba to assist these students, “We have to look at alternative programming for some; sometimes they can’t sit and learn for 47 minutes.” Limited space also needs to be considered, he added. As a first step in preparing for the new law, Wood said that two new interventionists have been included in the 2014/15 budget.
In other business, the Committee voted unanimously for Stow’s Center School to provide food services to Hudson’s Darnell School, which does not have the facilities to produce these meals. A private school devoted to special education students, Darnell covers all costs under the contract to produce about 35 meals per day, and will handle transporting the meals.