Classrooms at the Herrick Ave. elementary school are packed. Reading interventionists and special educators have worked out of storage closets, and with higher expected class sizes, there’s not much relief in sight, school officials say.
As such, the district has planned a public forum next week to discuss relocating its two pre-kindergarten programs to Milton High School or the district offices at Milton Elementary/Middle School.
Either option would consolidate both pre-K classrooms in one building – one is located offsite at Little Feats Too – and could possibly increase enrollment by four students, said Wendy Cunningham, MTSD early education collaborative coordinator.
A forum is scheduled for Wednesday, May 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the Milton High School library to discuss the pros and cons of each.
MTSD superintendent Ann Bradshaw has already identified a few. In a memo provided to the school board earlier this month, Bradshaw said the high school has two adjacent classrooms that could be converted for pre-K with a separate drop-off/pick-up area.
The space also has a fenced-in playground and separate bathrooms to minimize contact between the district’s youngest and eldest students, she said.
The other option is converting the district training room and executive offices, which house the superintendent, business manager, HR and registrar. This would allow the youngsters to use elementary school resources like the library and playground but would displace a handful of adults from the most populous building.
“We can move anybody, but we would be draining adults from this building, which is not something to be dismissed easily,” Bradshaw told the board.
Discussions of a move were initiated during budget talks this winter, when the board added another Grade 2 teacher to ease burgeoning class sizes. Without moving pre-K, the Grade 2 teacher won’t have a classroom, Bradshaw said.
The additional second grade classroom will seemingly be required for at least two years, MES principal Mary Fitzgerald said, as the upcoming kindergarten and first grade classes are equally as big as the one that precipitated the extra teacher.
“This problem isn’t going away,” Bradshaw said.
“We can’t have special education teachers having their desks in the hall. There are no more closets to use,” she continued. “It’s just not a workable solution, although it would be great. I think it could be great at the high school.”
That configuration could pave the road toward an early education internship center at MHS, she added.
Bradshaw urged the school board to take action to improve the learning environment for pre-K students, arguably the district’s “most economically disadvantaged students” that otherwise likely wouldn’t have access to the programming.
At the April 9 meeting, school trustee Jeremy Metcalf wondered whether administrators had considered relocating Grades 7 and 8 back to the high school, their home until 2012.
Bradshaw said that option was off the table since construction has to take place this summer, and she’d heard the move was disruptive at the time.
“My sense is if 7-8 goes back, it’s going to be crowded over there,” she said. “The memory of the issue is too close to people’s minds.”
Bradshaw’s memo says the federal Preschool Development Grant would cover 70 percent of the anticipated cost to construct the pre-K classrooms. For the high school option, this would amount to just under $23,250, while renovating Herrick spaces could cost about $15,200.
Board chairman Mike Joseph said the trustees will take the public’s feedback into consideration.
“We need to give them the proper ability to provide their opinions,” he said. “We [will] take that as input as to what we should do here.”