Parents ask school board to reinstate readiness program

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The Region 16 Board of Education has eliminated the readiness kindergarten program at Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls (pictured) and Algonquin School in Prospect. The board will reconsider its decision at its June 27 meeting following requests from parents to reinstate the program. –FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — A couple of weeks after voting to eliminate the kindergarten readiness program, a handful of parents asked the Region 16 Board of Education to reconsider its decision.

“I feel it’s extremely unfortunate that this early intervention program has been eliminated,” Beacon Falls resident Elizabeth Setaro, whose child would have attended the program next school year, told the board at its June 6 meeting.

The program was for students entering kindergarten who weren’t quite ready yet for regular kindergarten for academic or social reasons. Students are screened every year prior to entering kindergarten. If the screening shows a student could use a year of readiness prior to regular kindergarten, the student’s parents are given the option of participating in the program.

“It gives students, who are academically and emotionally not ready, the extra year to catch up,” Setaro said.

The school board voted to eliminate the program at its May 23 meeting due to declining enrollment and research that shows retention programs, which the readiness program is, aren’t that effective in the long run.

A total of 36 children from the district, which covers Beacon Falls and Prospect, were identified for the program next school year, but only 15 parents decided to enroll their children in the program.

The classes, one each at Algonquin School in Prospect and Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls, will be replaced with regular kindergarten classes.

The board had a lengthy debate over eliminated the program in May, and for some members the decision hinged on the fact that the program had already been offered. After being told by interim Superintendent of Schools Tim James that parents were informed the program could potentially be eliminated when they signed up, the board voted, 6-0, to do so.

For some parents, the decision came as a surprise.

“I was completely thrown back, as far as everything seemed to be in place and all set for this program,” Michelle Grant of Beacon Falls wrote in an e-mail to the board after receiving notice that the program was eliminated.

In all four parents have stepped forward thus far and requested the program be reinstated.

Allison Sirowich, whose three children are already past kindergarten and will not be impacted by the move, stood before the board as well last week to speak in favor of the program.

Sirowich said she waited a year to enroll her first two children in kindergarten because they we’re born in the fall and younger than the other children entering kindergarten. Sirowich said she is happy she made the decision and her children are now thriving.

“I feel strongly that it is in everyone’s best interest to keep [the readiness program] mostly because you’ll be thrusting a lot of 4-year-olds into kindergarten,” Sirowich said.

Setaro said during a presentation on the program in March parents who previously sent their child to the program all said it was the best decision.

“I also want what is best for my child, and I truly feel the readiness program would have been the best place for him this fall,” Setaro said.

The parents suggested if both classes can’t be reinstated due to enrollment than have one readiness class for the entire district.

Since the board meeting was a special meeting, having been moved up from its originally scheduled date of June 13, the board couldn’t add an item to the agenda to discuss the matter. The board will discuss the matter at its June 27 meeting and look into holding one readiness class for the entire district.

“We’re seriously going to look at it one more time,” board Chair Priscilla Cretella said.

James said restoring the program wouldn’t have an impact on the budget. He said the board will have to have a philosophical discussion on the issue.

“It will be reconsidered and rediscussed on June 27,” James said.