Reading, MA — Superintendent John Doherty presented his amended kindergarten plans to the School Committee at its March 19 meeting. The changes came after many parents of next year’s half-day kindergarteners received notice that their children would not necessarily be attending their neighborhood school, but that all half-day students would be attending either Joshua Eaton Elementary School or Barrows Elementary School. The change was made to allow half-day and full-day students to have separate classes. Parents expressed concern both about the late notice of the change and the inability to re-register for full-day based on the new information thus preventing siblings from having to attend different schools.
Doherty acknowledged that he had spoken with “many” parents and offered the following plan to address concerns. First, the choice to offer separate programs for half-day and full-day kindergarten students would continue. Four kindergarten teachers presented a letter, signed by all fourteen kindergarten teachers in the district, to the committee affirming this choice. “[Combined classes] are not an optimal learning environment for students.” opined the letter. Second, all kindergarten students who have siblings in a school, present or past, will be able to return to that school for grade one. Third, all half-day kindergarteners with a sibling in a school that is on the waiting list for full-day will be accepted into the full-day program at that school, except at Wood End Elementary School, where there is no room. Finally, morning extended day programs will be offered at no cost to families at Killam and Birch Meadow to help those who need to drop students off at multiple schools.
Several changes had to be made to accommodate these changes, Doherty reported. One RISE pre-school will move from Wood End to Killam, to open a classroom for half-day. All half-day kindergarten programs will be in the mornings and will begin at 8:15 am. Barrows half-day students will be at Joshua Eaton and Birch Meadow half-day students will be at Wood End or Killam dependent on geography. Doherty acknowledged that some full-day kindergarten students may need to change schools for grade one and that this plan does not address all the concerns from parents, but addresses most of the concerns.
The committee was generally positive regarding the compromises, although member Nicholas Boivin expressed a need to readdress the idea that certain families need to pay to be able to attend their local school. Resident Caleb Smith thanked the superintendent for the changes while still expressing concern about the timing of how the original decisions were made.
The School Committee spent the bulk of the meeting hearing a report from the building principals regarding how each was addressing the goals of the district improvement plan. “Our staff has not wavered in the commitment to children.” Doherty declared. He also announced that the high school principal finalist decided to accept a position elsewhere, partially due to the uncertainty of funding in the community. Doherty informed the committee that a new search will be suspended until after the local election on April 3 and that there is a possibility of securing an interim principal for the 2018-2019 school year. He also updated the committee on the search for an assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. Finalists will be invited to an open microphone night on Monday, March 26.
The School Committee adjourned at 10:45 pm.