Letter: A compromise for full-day kindergarten in Barrington
To the editor:
As the parents of a child about to enter kindergarten this year, we are writing to express our strong reservations about moving every child in Barrington to a system of full-day kindergarten.
We fully respect the views of those who want full-day kindergarten, and we know these parents have the best interests of our children at heart. We all want the same thing, which is to ensure that every single child in Barrington receives the very best possible education available.
Barrington schools are the envy of the state. Every year, we see families moving to Barrington to take advantage of our top-notch facilities, dedicated teachers and administrators. Our test and achievement scores at virtually all grade levels rival those of any in the region. It’s why our property values are relatively resilient, even in the face of a devastating economic blow. As a community, we’re proud of this fact, and we should be because this town cares about its schools, its teachers and, most importantly, its students.
So when we hear claims that the lack of a full day kindergarten program will have dire consequences for the future educational success of our kids, perhaps we should just all take a collective deep breath.
Yes, there are new standards in place. These must be met. Indeed, we face challenges for some kids who need extra help, and these needs must be addressed. But we categorically reject the idea that as a community we’re about to inflict long-term and lasting damage on our students by not moving them all to full-day K. In fact, an argument can be made that putting such young children in school for a full day is detrimental to their social/emotional growth given that it will leave less time for playdates and the pure play environment that has been proven children at this age need.
Furthermore, the choice to implement full-day K comes with significant trade-offs. A full 6.5 hours of school each day for every Kindergartner will cost more than $600,000 according to the School Committee. That is money we as a town simply don’t have. So it leaves us with three choices: cut other vital school programs in order to achieve all day K for all our kids, increase taxes or do both.
It’s not like there aren’t competing demands for money within the school systems. The facts are these: Our incredible teachers face a salary freeze and benefits cuts. We want to bring our kids into the 21st century with an investment in technology that will have untold benefits down the road. We want to keep our class sizes small so that each child has the opportunity to absorb as much as he or she possibly can in any given day.
Yet all these items are jeopardized when we choose to spend huge sums covering each child for something that may or may not benefit them.
Consider this: given the high achievement rates by our students in Barrington, the care with which parents involve themselves in their children’s education, the remarkable resources we have in our libraries and other programs, and the dedication of our teachers, do we really believe that each and every child in Barrington must have a full 6.5 hours in a classroom or he or she will suffer irreparable harm? Speaking for ourselves, we don’t believe that for a second.
But we do know that there are families in our community and children here who really need access to these services, and who will really be disadvantaged and harmed by not receiving a full day of Kindergarten. We should absolutely meet the needs of these families and children – and we can through existing programs.
That’s why we’re proposing a compromise. We used to provide one full-day class in each school. Surely we have the skills and screening methodologies necessary to determine who could really benefit from full-day K and provide it to them. No extra teachers would be required for this plan and those that really needed that full day would get it.
We all want our kids to get a great education and to succeed in school. We just think there’s a smarter way to get there.
Amy and Tad Segal