In a close vote on Thursday night, Barrington School Committee members endorsed the implementation of full-day kindergarten in local schools this fall.
However, the motion was a little bit complicated — it supported the implementation of full-day kindergarten this fall as long as there is enough funding in place for the new program and as long as full-day K implementation does not adversely impact other programs deemed necessary by school officials.
After a few readings of the motion and some additional clarification, committee members Bob Shea, Patrick Guida and Kate Brody voted in favor, while Scott Fuller and Paula Dominguez voted against. It passed, 3-2.
Mr. Fuller said he could not support going against the superintendent’s recommendation to wait a full year before implementing the program, which Mike Messore made clear during a May 9 meeting of the school committee. Mr. Fuller said it was not appropriate for the five school committee members to second-guess the superintendent’s recommendation, adding that Mr. Messore is the education professional.
Ms. Dominguez said she supports the implementation of full-day kindergarten this fall, but believes officials could bring the program to Barrington immediately while using money already contained within the $46 million budget.
The school committee’s motion appears to pave the way for a showdown at the Barrington financial town meeting set for Wednesday, May 22. A resident recently filed an amendment to increase the school department’s budget increase by an additional $633,000 — if voted through, the schools would receive about $1.533 million on top of the current $45 million operating budget.
At Thursday night’s meeting, the school finance director Ron Tarro shared a brief account of the history of budget surpluses realized each year for the last five years by the school department. He said the district had a total surplus of $2.7 million for the last five years, and has reappropriated much of that money over the years to cover capital costs, like new roofs on schools and parking lots. He said he anticipated a $300,000 surplus in this year’s budget.
Ms. Dominguez had said she was able to locate at least $125,000 in funding within the budget that could be put toward the new full-day K program, adding that she was confident Mr. Tarro could find even more.
The FTM is set for 7 p.m. on May 22 at the Barrington High School auditorium.