Wednesday, December 4, 2013
AUGUSTA — The school board postponed a vote on moving prekindergarten to the Capital Area Technical Center after teachers raised a host of concerns Wednesday night.
The school board unanimously approved a separate proposal to move the central office to CATC, but they sent the proposal regarding kindergarten back to the facilities committee for further exploration.
The board’s facilities committee recommended both actions to make space available in the district’s elementary schools. CATC’s building is underutilized because of recent decreases in enrollment at area high schools.
Nearly 100 students are enrolled in the citywide prekindergarten program at Gilbert Elementary.
A long list of questions from the prekindergarten teachers about how the move would affect them and their students did not reach school board members until late Tuesday night or Wednesday.
“I know at this point in time, with the questions raised today, I hadn’t looked at this large of a picture,” Ward 3 school board member Nicole Desjardins said at the school board meeting Wednesday evening. “I don’t feel comfortable taking a vote with these questions posed today.”
Prekindergarten teacher Mindy Doiron said the teachers didn’t learn about the proposal until last week.
Farrington Elementary special education teacher Stephanie Connors said she did not think the move was a good idea, based on her experience as the mother of a student who was in prekindergarten at Gilbert last year and another in CATC’s early childhood education program.
“When I think about this option, I ask myself, what is the educational purpose of moving them there? How will the preschoolers and their teachers benefit from this move?” Connors said.
Connors said if Augusta Public Schools needs more space in the elementary schools, she thinks it would be better to move some sixth grade classes to the Cony campus.
Several of the prekindergarten teachers’ concerns were about the administration and staff available to support the teachers and students, such as a principal, counselor and nurse. The Cony campus has people working in those positions, but Doiron said the needs of teenagers are very different from those of young children.
Doiron said the teachers also worry that the prekindergarten students will be isolated from other students near their own age and all of the resources and opportunities of an elementary school, such as the library, assemblies and events like Field Day.
“One of the reasons we were so thrilled about coming into the elementary school is it gives the kids such a great chance to interact at an even earlier age than they already are in kindergarten, with the rest of the students,” Doiron said.
Speaking on behalf of the prekindergarten teachers, Doiron also asked questions about classroom space bathrooms, the playground, transportation, feeding the students and emergency planning.
Superintendent James Anastasio said administrators probably could have answered some of the questions at the school board meeting, but he wanted to give them due diligence.
At-large school board member Kim Martin said moving the central office to CATC is time-sensitive because of the need for more space at Hussey Elementary next year, but it would be OK if prekindergarten remained at Gilbert longer.
The school board voted unanimously to send the issue back to the facilities committee for further discussion.
At-large school board member Larry Ringrose said it would also make sense for the board’s education committee to study how the move would affect the prekindergarten students’ education.
The superintendent’s office will move into the CATC administration’s at some point during this school year, and the business office will move into CATC before next fall.
Susan McMillan -- 621-5645