News Column

West Haven all-day kindergarten expansion on hold

August 19, 2014

By Mark Zaretsky, New Haven Register, Conn.

Aug. 19--WEST HAVEN -- State money that might have extended all-day kindergarten to additional schools now is unlikely to be approved in time for the start of school, Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro said Monday night.

So the school system is back to the original post-budget-approval plan to have all-day kindergarten at Savin Rock School and extended-day kindergarten at Forest and Washington schools, Cavallaro said.

Had the $1 million in bond funds expected from the state been approved this month, there would have been all-day kindergarten at at least two of the three schools, which are West Haven's three neediest, Cavallaro said.

In the past, he had said the district would start all-day kindergarten first at Savin Rock and Forest schools.

The funding originally was on the state Bonding Commission agenda for June, but the meeting was cancelled. Then the state was unable to get the funding on the commission's July agenda. West Haven's funds were on the August agenda, but that meeting also recently was cancelled, Cavallaro told the Board of Education Monday night.

"We don't want to proceed and add two more teachers, to the tune of $100,000, without a definite commitment from the state," Cavallaro said.

Starting the school year with all-day kindergarten at Forest, as well, without the money securely in place would have been "a mistake," Cavallaro said.

The extended-day kindergarten at Forest and Washington schools, West Haven's other two "Title 1" schools along with Savin Rock, will be for the children who need it the most, based on performance, Cavallaro said.

If the funding is approved in September, "it will give us a year to plan," he said.

Cavallaro has said in the past that the funding would pay for everything from smart boards to iPads for the classrooms to desktop computers and monitors for the kindergarten teachers.

The Board of Education had originally had planned to implement all-day kindergarten at Savin Rock and Forest, but Cavallaro said there was not enough money available to do it after Mayor Ed O'Brien cut the board's original budget request.

When the City Council ultimately included $202,225 in additional funds for education in the adopted budget, Cavallaro said it would fund a limited all-day kindergarten program, with full "all-day kindergarten" at Savin Rock and "extended day" kindergarten at Washington and Forest schools.

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