JAMAICA -- Next month, voters will decide whether to authorize the School Board to spend up to $12,000 to extend pre-k instruction to full day.
"It's more or less an opportunity for parents and children to have more experience with normal education earlier in life," said Windham Central Supervisory Union Steven John. "It enables us to address any learning difficulties earlier in their school careers."
On May 20, the Jamaica School Board will hold a presentation at 6:30 p.m. at the Jamaica Village School followed by the vote shortly after 7 p.m. If the programming is established, it will be optional for parents to send their children for a full day.
According to John, the primary rationale for extending pre-k hours is being able to intervene earlier and meet children's learning needs while trying to provide a richer social and learning environment.
The board had discussed the possibility at a couple of its meetings. After a budget was approved by the board prior to Town Meeting, board members felt it should be brought up at Town Meeting.
"The board really wanted to attain community feedback prior to including it in the budget," said Jamaica Village School Principal Laura Hazard.
She told the Reformer that the idea of extending pre-k hours received a positive response during Town Meeting and more so afterward. A petition was then created in order for it to be voted on.
"It's important for the students first and foremost, because they get an early start on becoming life long learners," said Hazard.
The increase in funding would have only a minimal impact on the school budget, she added. And until a Leland & Gray budget is approved, the board won't have an actual number for how it will affect the tax rate.
John said he has always promoted universal pre-k for students in all 11 school districts of the Windham Central Supervisory Union. He had seen parents express interest in having full-day programs because without it, they had to pick up their children in the middle of the day, which can be difficult if both parents are employed full-time.
In Townshend, John believed the full day pre-k was very well received. Before that district went to full-day programming, Wardsboro had done it.
"It's something that is certainly expanding," added John. "It's changing times. It used to be very controversial whether to have kindergarten. State law only really obliges education at age 6. This is definitely broadening the providing of education for more students, particularly in this case, earlier in life."
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.