Milaschewski Reports on Kindergarten Enrollment

Reading, MA — Superintendent of Schools Thomas Milaschewski shared initial kindergarten enrollment numbers with the School Committee on Thursday. Milaschewski reported that there has been 262 students registered for kindergarten in the district thus far, only slightly behind the projected total of 276 students. Milaschewski pointed out that only five students have registered for half-day kindergarten, two at Joshua Eaton Elementary School and three at Killam Elementary School. Milaschewski stated that the families who have registered for half-day would be contacted to determine the reasons the families chose that option if the class sizes remain unsustainable. School Committee member Chuck Robinson agreed with the plan, referring to it as “appropriate.”

The superintendent indicated that the administration will also reach out to families with siblings who still need to enroll and families who have attended kindergarten planning meetings but have yet to enroll. School Committee chair Shawn Brant expressed concern over the initial projected class sizes at Wood End Elementary School as they are only two students shy of exceeding School Committee class size guidelines. Member Thomas Wise also questioned if additional staff will be required if more students register for the half-day option. Milaschewski plans to update the committee on kindergarten enrollment later in the month.

School Resource Officers (SRO) Brian Lewis and Matt Vatcher and officers Cooper and Rusty presented an update to the committee on their activities. Lewis shared that the SROs have maintained the “excellent partnership” between Reading Public School and the Reading Police Department, a notion that MIlaschewski affirmed. Lewis also reported that both SROs have been recertified as SROs and had taken additional training in Adolescent Mental Health and Comprehensive School Threat Guidelines. He also highlighted their cooperation with the Coalition for Prevention and Support. 

Vatcher added that there also has been additional training on hoax calls and that the SROs have been working with fifth-grade students on internet accountability. The comfort dog program is also progressing as Cooper and Rusty continue to receive additional training. Milaschewski added that the SROs have become “a part of the life of the school” and that the officers are “great role models for the community.” Lewis continued, sharing that the comfort dogs have broken down communication barriers between the students and the officers.

The School Committee also voted 5-0 to form a sub-committee to develop a recommendation for possibly replacing the district’s special education counsel. Brandt noted that costs for the current counsel increased nine or ten percent over last year, though he also noted that it was the first increase in several years. Robinson agreed that it was appropriate to investigate hiring new counsel, pointing out that no such review has taken place during his long tenure on the committee. “It’s time,” Robinson stated.

Wise suggested that the sub-committee should focus on hiring counsel “who mirrors the values of empathy that the district has.” After the vote, Brandt appointed Wise and member Sarah McLaughlin to serve on the sub-committee. The plan is for the sub-committee to present a recommendation to the whole School Committee in time for a vote in May.

The committee participated in a 50-minute executive session mid-meeting to discuss strategy for upcoming collective bargaining. The School Committee adjourned at 8:45 pm.

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