Norwich school board likes implementation of full-day kindergarten plan

Norwich - The Board of Education expressed pleasure Tuesday with a plan to expand full-day kindergarten to all city elementary schools, even though a lottery and possibly a waiting list will be necessary because of lack of space.

School officials called this year's plan a "phase-in" and hope to expand the program to include all kindergarten-aged students starting next school year.

Board of Education members told administrators in July to make full-day kindergarten a top priority despite receiving a nearly flat $70.5 million budget by the City Council with just a $150,000 increase.

Norwich will rely on the $1 million state Network Schools grant for the John B. Stanton School to help fund two full-day kindergarten classes there, and hope to use another $2.3 million state Alliance District grant to add full-day kindergarten to the Uncas and Wequonnoc schools.

However, Norwich is still awaiting state approval of the Alliance District plan for how the city would use the grant money. That approval likely won't come until just days before school starts Aug. 28.

The delay in the Alliance District grant leaves a total of eight teaching positions unfilled at this time, school Superintendent Abby Dolliver said, making it difficult to assign students to specific teachers and classrooms.

A lottery will be used to fill one full-day kindergarten class at each of the remaining four elementary schools - Thomas Mahan, John M. Moriarty, Veterans' Memorial and Samuel Huntington schools. Each of those schools also will have morning and afternoon half-day kindergarten classes for those not selected in the lottery, Dolliver told the board Tuesday.

The regional education agency, LEARN, will run the lottery and has hired Jolea Cannon, a former Norwich teacher, to oversee the lottery. All registrations will be done at the school system's new registration center at Bishop School, at 526 E. Main St.

All full-day kindergarten registration forms must be received or post-marked by Aug. 15.

Parents in the Mahan, Moriarty, Huntington and Veterans' school districts who have registered their child for kindergarten still may apply for the full-day kindergarten program lottery.

Class size for the full day program is limited, and only those children entering the lottery will be considered, LEARN officials said.

For more information on the lottery program, contact Cannon at (860) 823-4201 ext. 104 or jcannon@norwichpublicschools.org or visit the school system's website, www.norwichpublicschools.org.

Board member Jesshua Ballaro, who led the push for full-day kindergarten, said she was thrilled the administration was able to expand full-day kindergarten. Last school year, only Stanton had full-day kindergarten, funded through the Network Schools grant.

Ballaro said the school board now needs to set its sights on ensuring all Norwich kindergarten students have the chance to attend full-day kindergarten, without a lottery. She said the school board should consider converting one building to an early learning center for students in pre-school through second grade.

The Bishop School now serves as a preschool center, with all but one preschool class in the small school.

c.bessette@theday.com

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