Hudson voting on full-day kindergarten

Taxpayers to cast votes on numerous school-related matters at annual election

HUDSON – Taxpayers will be voting on a number of school-related matters for the town’s annual school district election.

One that could change the outlook of education for young Hudson residents is Warrant Article 5, a petition to bring full-day kindergarten to the Hudson School District.

The district’s current half-day program has 156 students enrolled, with five classrooms in the morning and four classes in the afternoon. The proposed full-day program assumes about 216 students would be enrolled, with reasoning coming from current first-grade enrollment. This would amount for roughly 12 classrooms of 18 students.

The petitioned warrant article, brought to the board Jan. 9, advocates for Hudson to “raise and appropriate the sum not to exceed $960,000, which represents the funding necessary to implement full-day kindergarten starting in the 2019-2020 school year.”

As noted in the warrant article, the total cost of full-day kindergarten would be offset in the amount of $1,800 per student from New Hampshire Department of Education funding, as well as an amount of $1,100 per student, at minimum, from Keno 603 funding. The estimated tax rate is 31 cents of tax impact.

Board members recommended the petition by a vote of 3-1-1, with one abstaining vote. However, the town’s Budget Committee voted against the measure by a count of 3-6. This warrant is only advisory to the Hudson School Board.

During the Jan. 14 board meeting, Superintendent Larry Russell addressed board about an informational meeting on full-day kindergarten that took place Jan. 9. Russell said about 50 people attended said meeting and had good questions and suggestions. Russell spoke of community concerns that there was not enough information to begin in the fall. The suggestion was conducting full-day kindergarten at Nottingham West Elementary School for first year, then moving it for 2020.

Russell also said if money is “zeroed out,” the district is not obligated to organize full-day kindergarten. If voted “yes,” it’s a board decision as to when it begins.

During the Jan. 14 meeting, board member Darcy Orellana moved to support full-day kindergarten, which was seconded by board member Michael Blau. Vice Chair Lee Lavoie said if voters say “yes,” he would support full-day kindergarten. Despite making the initial motion, Orellana ultimately voted “no.” Board member Patty Langlais choose to abstain from voting, noting to let voters decide.

An informational meeting took place Jan. 30 to give officials a chance to inform the public of how full-day kindergarten would be implemented at Hudson. A visual presentation by school officials, which can be found on the main page of the district’s website, noted the differences between half-day kindergarten and full day kindergarten.The presentation showed students in half-day kindergarten receive 450 hours of instruction per year, as opposed to 990 hours of instruction in full-day. Students in half-day kindergarten maintain a focus on math and literacy, whereas students in full-day kindergarten access physical education, art, music and computer labs. There are also more opportunities to integrate science and social studies instruction.

The presentation stated research shows benefits to full-day education can have long-term benefits, including enhanced social and emotional development, improved language and communication skills with peers and adults and increased academic achievement.

The presentation also details three options of how and where full-day kindergarten classes would be implemented. Option No 1. would keep pre-school, kindergarten and first grade at the Early Learning Center, while adding an additional learning cottage. Option No. 2 would have preschool at Nottingham West and kindergarten and first grade at the Early Learning Center. Option No. 3 would have preschool and kindergarten at the Early Learning Center and first grade at Nottingham West and Hills Garrison School.

Recommendations from school district officials include a two-year plan through which fiscal year 2019/2020 would fund and construct infrastructure, while fiscal year 2020/2021 would implement full-day kindergarten, as noted on the presentation.

The district’s website notes, if the warrant article passes, children will automatically be registered for full-day kindergarten unless their parents specifically option out for a morning half-day session.

Hudson town voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today at the Community Center, located at 12 Lions Ave., Hudson.