By KAITLYN NAPLES
While it is unclear whether the Board of Education will see the budget increase it is requesting, Superintendent of Schools Ellen Solek passionately expressed how “crucial” it is that Bristol implement a full-day kindergarten program.
The school board is requesting a 4.96 percent increase over its current allocated budget, totaling a little under $109.5 million. In addition to that, the board is requesting $1,899,392 for the first year’s rollout of full-day kindergarten.
“I know it is hard to separate the financial needs and what is the right thing to do,” Solek said to the Board of Finance last Thursday evening, “but this is the right thing to do.” She expressed how important it is to keep the students of Bristol competitive and at the same level, if not better, than districts across the state. She also said 77 percent of districts across Connecticut have a full-day kindergarten program, including Southington and Plainville. “I cannot advocate for this program strongly enough,” she added.
Right now, Solek said, the kindergarten students get the equivalent of two-and-a-half hours of actual instruction. “we need that six hours of instruction,” so the students can have a higher achievement level as they get into the higher grades. She said there are statistics that show, even in Bristol’s district, that students who received full day kindergarten elsewhere are at a higher achievement level than students who have not. Ultimately, the entire cost of full day kindergarten is expected to run a little over $4 million, and Solek said she expects $800,000 of the first year’s cost to be offset by an Alliance Grant funding that the district received.
In the budget proposal is a call for an increase in funding to maintain the school buildings and athletic fields. Floor repairs are needed at Chippens Hill and North East middle schools, and other repairs are needed across the district. Other increases in the budget include contractual salary and benefit increases, as well as increases in special education which is mandated by the state.
The Board of Finance members asked questions while they dissected the school board’s budget request. It will continue to do so and will meet again with the City Council for a work session on Monday, March 31 at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall. These work sessions are open to the public.
The board’s budget request, and other department requests are available on the city’s website at www.bristolct.gov.