Interest in new kindergarten program soars in Avon Grove
● By Steven Hoffman
The Avon Grove School District will be launching its new full-day kindergarten program to start the 2017-2018 school year, and so far families in the community are expressing a lot of interest in the program.
At the Feb. 23 school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Christopher Marchese informed the school board that so far there have been 222 registration appointments for the full-day kindergarten program. For the sake of comparison, there were 145 registration appointments at this time last year.
The district has been working for months to get parents to register their children for kindergarten early this year so that the transition from a half-day to a full-day program goes as smoothly as possible.
Marchese said that the number of registration appointments so far indicates that there is increased interest in the full-day kindergarten program.
District officials have discussed implementing a full-day kindergarten program for a long time, but it was just within the last two to three years that the concept gained momentum. The district's top administrators want to offer full-day kindergarten to students because it will provide increased instructional time and learning opportunities for students. The additional learning opportunities will benefit students who have under-performed early in their academic careers, and give them a stronger foundation to build on as they move through the elementary grades. Avon Grove will now be able to offer more interventions and supports to young learners who might otherwise fall behind in their academic growth.
By offering full-day kindergarten, Avon Grove will have a competitive program with charter schools and private schools in the area. District officials expect enrollment to grow as a result of the kindergarten program.
In other business at the meeting, the Avon Grove School Board approved a new dual enrollment agreement with West Chester University.
Marchese explained that the agreement will offer another good option for Avon Grove students. High school students will be able to begin earning college credits by taking courses at West Chester University while they are still in high school.
School board vice president Brian Gaerity noted that students can earn college credits at a very reasonable cost compared to what they will pay once they are fully enrolled in college. It will cost about $600 for a student to take a three-credit-hour course.
“That is a great deal for students,” Gaerity explained.
The school board voted to continue its agreement with the PFM Group for financial advisory services. Part of the PFM Group's responsibilities will be to ensure compliance with Dodd-Frank reforms and the Consumer Protection Act of 2010, as well as the MSRB regulations that are in place in the municipal securities market.
The school board also approved a multi-year contract with Direct Energy for transport of the district's supplied natural gas.
The school board approved a list of resignations, retirements, leaves, and appointments. Included were the retirements of Carl Benson, a teacher at Avon Grove High School, and John Stahl, a teacher at the Fred S. Engle Middle School. Both teachers will be retiring at the end of the current school year.
In his report about the Finance Committee, Gaerity said that the committee continues its work on the budget for the 2017-2018 school year. At the most recent meeting, the Finance Committee focused on revenues in the spending plan. Gaerity said that there are a lot of unknowns with regard to what the district will receive in state subsidies for the 2017-2018 school year. He noted that there are several proposals being considered that would dramatically change how Pennsylvania's public schools are funded. A move away from reliance on property taxes with a shift toward higher taxes on income and a higher sales tax has been discussed, but no legislation has been introduced during this session as of yet. Dramatic changes in how schools are funded have been discussed before, but the State Legislature has not come close to getting such legislation approved.
“The devil will be in the details of any proposal,” Gaerity said, explaining that it's just as likely that nothing will change as it is that there will be a significant change in how schools are funded. The next Finance Committee meeting is scheduled for March 21.
In his facilities report, school board member Jeffrey Billig informed his colleagues that State Rep. John Lawrence was in attendance at the most recent Facilities Committee meeting to talk about proposed improvements to the intersection of Old Baltimore Pike and Route 796. The school district owns property not far from the intersection. The township has secured more than $1 million in funding from the state for intersection improvements, which will pay for about half of the project. Billig explained that Penn Township officials have decided to pay for the rest of the costs for the intersection improvements, and the township wants to utilize a traffic impact fee on new developments in the township to recoup some of the costs.
Billig also reported that the district is continuing to work toward obtaining approvals from Penn Township for modular classrooms at the Penn London Elementary School campus. The modular classrooms will be necessary to accommodate the full-day kindergarten program at Penn London Elementary School.
The school board formally accepted donations that were made by anonymous donors during the holiday season. An anonymous donor made a donation of $1,135.65 to pay off the past-due lunch account balances at Penn London Elementary and Avon Grove Intermediate School. Then, an anonymous donor made an additional donation of $1,510 to clear the past-due lunch accounts at Fred S. Engle Middle School and Avon Grove High School. The past-due accounts had accumulated over more than one school year.
The meeting began with a sneak preview performance by Fred S. Engle Middle School students of the play, “The Sound of Music.” The performances of the show took place over the weekend.
Commenting on the rarity of getting a sneak preview of a show, as well as the superb performances by the students, school board president Bonnie Wolff said, “This was a very special treat for us. We don't get this very often.”
The next Committee-of-the-Whole meeting is slated for 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 9 in the Avon Grove Intermediate School's audion. The next regular meeting will take place on Thursday, March 23 at 7 p.m., also in the Avon Grove Intermediate School's audion.