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PHOENIXVILLE — In another move to challenge local charter schools for students, the Phoenixville Area School Board approved adding a full-day kindergarten program to the district for the next school year.
The all-day program, which will be held at the district’s Kindergarten Center starting in the 2013-14 academic year, was approved 7-1 at the Jan. 17 school board meeting.
“I think it’s very important to offer what our constituents need and, particularly, what our little constituents need,” said Jan Potts, the school board’s vice president. “That’s the option of a full-day kindergarten and I would much rather see our students being taught in-house than out of the school district.”
The all-day kindergarten program was established, chiefly, as a way to educate Phoenixville students by the district from the beginning to the end of their school experience in the borough and to possibly reel in some students who might have otherwise gone to charter schools that offer such a curriculum.
Carlla Carr is one parent who probably would have sent her child to a charter school without the option of a full-day kindergarten in the Phoenixville Area School District.
“I work full time and my husband works, too,” Carr said after the meeting. “A program of half time makes it difficult for parents who both work. I can tell you that if they didn’t approve the full-day program, I would have gone elsewhere.”
The school district’s plan for kindergarten moving forward still offers a half-day program but now opens to a full day schedule for those that want it as well as a literacy program for children who qualify.
All-day students will still receive just a half-day of “traditional” class and schoolwork but will use the second half of the day to provide an “enrichment program” that “support the existing curriculum,” according to Assistant Superintendent Regina Palubinsky in a statement the district posted to their website.
All-day students can be picked up at the normal 4 p.m. dismissal time or an extended day of “on-site day care” will be available to parents who couldn’t get their child or children until 6 p.m. will also be offered “for a nominal charge.”
David Ziev was the lone board member who voted against approving the program, presumably for the costs the program may incur.
“If we vote for this, this drives other decisions about construction projects and hiring,” Ziev said. “I just wanted to make that comment.”
“My understanding is that this will ultimately represent a return to us,” board member Kenneth Butera said.
According to the Community Budget Advisory Committee’s presentation to the school district in December, if the district were to return or prevent just three students from seeking charter education outside for he district, over the 12 years of their schooling it would save the district more than $501,000.
In the school board workshop meeting held Jan. 10, Superintendent Alan Fegley said most of the costs associated with starting up the full-day program would be in extra staffing. However, he estimated, “conservative(ly),” that the program would break even in four years if it prevented 15 students from seeking education outside the district.
When it was brought up at that meeting whether a fee would help offset costs, Fegley said it would be counterproductive.
“Charging is not going to accomplish what we want to do,” he said.
Currently, the Phoenixville Area School District has 365 students enrolled in charter school education, whether it is in brick and mortar establishments or cyber schools. The district spends approximately $4.5 million per year on those students, according to the Community Budget Advisory Committee’s December presentation.
Following the vote that approved the all-day program, applause from parents in favor of it broke out.
Joking, Paul Slaninka addressed the crowd, saying, “Thank you, Mom,” to laughs.
The missing ninth vote belonged to board member Irfan Khan, who was not present at the meeting.
In light of the approval, the district is hosting Kindergarten Information Night will be held at the Kindergarten Center Jan. 23 at 7 p.m., according to a release from the district. Information regarding the programs offered will be shared by the center’s principal, Margaret Pearsall.
The Kindergarten Center is located at 100 School Lane in Phoenixville. There will be free baby sitting provided.
Registration is currently open for kindergarten, according to the district website.