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Tewksbury School District To Offer Free All-Day Kindergarten ... Maybe

Mar 19, 2016 11:02PM ● By Bill Gilman

Dr. John O'Connor, Superintendent of Schools.

It has been a long time coming but there is reason to believe that the Tewksbury Public School District may offer free, all-day kindergarten for the 2016-17 School Year.
Just prior to its regular meeting on Wednesday, March 23, the School Committee will host a public hearing on the district's proposed $55.8 million Fiscal Year 2017 Budget. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. in the library at Tewksbury Memorial High School.
In his budget presentation to the School Committee, last month, Superintendent of Schools Dr. John O'Connor did not include a line item for the all-day kindergarten program.
However, that budget was not written in stone. School Department officials, led by O'Connor and Director of Business Services Sheri Matthews, have been working to crunch numbers and squeeze line items to find the money that would pay for the $700,000 kindergarten program.
"We're hopeful," said O'Connor. "There are things that still need to happen. But we're hopeful."
Assuming the School Committee approves the revised budget, Tewksbury voters will have their say, when the town's FY'17 Budget, including the School Department budget, is presented at the Annual Town Meeting in May.
Another variable is Ch. 70 State Aid. In his State Budget Proposal for FY '17, Gov. Charlie Baker has penciled in Tewksbury to receive $12,888,750 in Ch. 70 education aid. That's an increase of roughly $70,000 over FY '16.
That figure works fits in nicely with the plan to offer free, all-day kindergarten. However, O'Connor cautions that things can change between now and the time the Legislature approves a final State Budget and Gov. Baker signs it into law, some time this summer.
"Until it's finalized, any aid number from the state are always fluid," he said.
Tewksbury  presently offers a tuition-based kindergarten program at a cost of $4,000 per year.
The district had planned to offer free, all-day kindergarten last year, with an estimated price tag of $700,000. However, a $1.8 million budget shortfall, fueled largely by an unforeseen increase in Special Education costs forced the district to scrap those plans.




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