The Rochester Memorial School Committee met Thursday evening, and among many issues discussed was the unanimous decision to not go forward with the School Choice program, and also to study a potential switch from a half-day kindergarten to a full-day program.
The School Choice program as discussed by the Committee would have allowed for up to 10 students from outside the district to attend RMS by using funds provided by the former district to pay for the student’s tuition.
“There are a lot of variables that come into play,” said Superintendent Douglas White. “Where the economy is at, I just don’t know what that looks like going forward. I think that staying the way we are is the most efficient way to continue on at this time.”
The committee also addressed the potential move to a full-day K program, which most members are leaning toward but won’t vote on until June.
“I feel very strongly about the full-day K,” White said. “You have to be careful about how many changes you make,” referring to potentially switching to full kindergarten and School Choice at the same time.
White added that Marion had also voted against School Choice for their schools, but that it is an option districts will revisit.
Committee officials, meanwhile, seemed excited about the switch to full-day K, which would have a limit of 25 students for the class. There would be seven slots for half-day students, but those students’ parents would be responsible for their own transportation.
The Committee discussed two potential plans for the Full Day program: one with tuition, and one without, with the major difference between the two being the cost of bus transportation. Without tuition, there would be no transportation provided. Officials also stated that additional grant money would be made available under a no-tuition plan.
It is not yet clear which option the board will pursue, but further discussions will be held in the near future before a vote.
“I feel like we are really close,” said Sharon Hartley of the Committee. “I believe the town leaders would support us on this.”
In other news, the Committee unanimously approved a plan to construct a new playground at RMS for students in grades two through six. Donna Forcier and Erin Bednarczyk, who are co-chairs for the Playground Committee, presented a plan alongside Cindy Maak of Rochester, who designed the new playground and who has helped design more than 800 playgrounds total, including many in the area.
According to the Playground Committee, approximately $27,000 was raised in the last three years, but nothing had been done to move forward with the project. They formed at the beginning of this year, and were able to construct a plan for the new equipment, which will cost about $29,000. The PTO will have another fundraiser in the near future to supply the remaining funds.
“We’re going to order the equipment tomorrow,” Bednarczyk said. “It’s nice to see it get done. For three years, the kids played on asphalt.”
By Nick Walecka