Full-day kindergarten offerings could be limited next year depending on an expected increase in Braintree Public Schools enrollment and the availability of classroom space at the elementary level.
The kindergarten registration process kicks off next week with a letter to parents calling for information on how many children will join kindergarten in 2013-2014 and how many families are considering the full-day program. School Committee members approved the notice on Monday night.
This year, full-day kindergarten is being held in three classrooms at the high school, and at Flaherty, Hollis and Morrison schools. The BHS classes, with a total of 60 students, will be available come September. But home school full-day kindergarten may not be offered, Superintendent Dr. Peter Kurzberg said.
"Space is still a major obstacle to us," he said.
At Liberty Elementary School, for instance, there could be five first grade classes next year for the first time in recent memory. A study completed about two years ago of Braintree's expected enrollment showed that additional students over the next decade will put pressure in particular on the K-5 level, prompting officials to hire an architectural firm to look at expanding classroom space.
Parents should know that just because full-day kindergarten is currently available at their home school, that does not mean the program will continue there next fall, Dr. Kurzberg stressed. Along with the letters, there will be open kindergarten registration at the schools in January.
If there is not enough room to offer home school programs, one alternative could be a kindergarten center at Monatiquot School. Committee member Pam Kiley, a longtime proponent of the idea, said it would make sense because the six elementary schools are bursting with students.
Monatiquot could open up next September if the Montessori School, in the last year of its contract there, puts in a long-term bid to lease Eldridge School. Earlier this fall, Business Manager Peter Kress told the committee that Montessori was examining the possibility.
On Monday, Kress said that Montessori is looking at the details for Eldridge now, and that a public bidding process will likely be complete by mid-January.
"It is an option, but it does have some drawbacks," Dr. Kurzberg said, pointing especially to transportation.
Once the administration has a better handle on overall kindergarten numbers early next year, it will hold an information session for families and a full-day kindergarten lottery.
Prompted by strong demand for the program last winter, the district opened up the three, 20-student classrooms in the home schools this year, along with the three at the high school, charging $3,000 for full-pay students and $1,500 for reduced-pay students.
Full-day kindergarten was introduced as a pilot program in September 2011 after a number of failed attempts by advocates to bring the program to Braintree. Since then, interest has steadily increased, going from an initial lottery of 66 children to 163 submitted applications with deposits last winter.