continued Assistant Superintendent Mike Vespi said the fact that F-M has almost three years to prepare for the additional costs from the program puts the district in a good position from a financial standpoint. In fact, he said he’s already been looking into efficiencies for the 2015-16 budget and beyond.
“We’ve got a couple years to look at the efficiencies so that this isn’t a battle of program versus program – that’s what we want to avoid,” Vespi said. “I think that [the discussion tonight] is more about the educational aspects than finances, given the fact that we’ve got this lead time and the ability to plan for it.”
John Cucinotta, who has served on the F-M board since 1990, remembered that when the board discussed a full-day program in the past, the idea never got past preliminary discussions because there wasn’t enough space in the three elementary schools. Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Jeff Gordon said that a large drop in enrollment is the reason why that space is now available.
“Our numbers have dropped dramatically,” Gordon said. “For example, the highest amount of students at Enders Road was around 680 kids, compared to a little over 500 now. We’d have to see an incredibly dramatic jump in numbers before we’d have any concerns. And the numbers aren’t just down for Kindergarten, [enrollment in] grades one through four is also down compared to the past.”
Cucinotta also brought up the fact that the state has begun talking about the possible implementation of a mandated Pre-K program as a reason why F-M should start a full-day program sooner rather than later.
“All we’re hearing from Albany is ‘Pre-k,’ and it seems that the state has changed its focus, and that they’re more focused on kids getting ready for school at four years old, not five,” Cucinotta said. “And so students are going to have to get ready for instruction and responsibility at an earlier age, especially if the state mandates a Pre-K program. And I wouldn’t want to start talking about a Pre-K program unless we have a good, solid, full-day kindergarten program in place.”