SUMMIT, NJ—In his report on the Summit school district’s tuition-based, Full-Day kindergarten program, Summit Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nathan Parker said that, after the lottery to determine which children would fill the 120 spots available in six classes, there were five children on the “wait list” for the Jefferson Primary Center and 20 children on the “wait list” for Wilson Primary Center.
According to Parker, parents of those children selected for the 120 spots have until February 13 to register their students. For those students who are not registered by the deadline, the school district will begin contacting parents of wait-listed students to fill the slots.
Parents Robin and Jamie Kanterman asked the Board of Education at its workshop session to add another class to accommodate students on the wait list.
Robin Kanterman said her son is eighth on a wait list, and it was unfair of the board to deny him -- and more than 20 other students on the lists -- the opportunity to attend the program in the Summit public schools.
Her husband, Jamie Kanterman, said the wait-listed children could be accommodated by just adding one more class and perhaps increasing the sizes of the classes that already had been organized.
Parker noted the board only had authorized a total of six classes.
Board President Celia Colbert added that their were differing views on cost and space requirements for the Full-Day classes among the various members of the school body, and it was highly unlikely another section would be added at either Wilson or Jefferson.
Kanterman replied that she was a Summit taxpayer, and it was unfair that her son could not take advantage of the Full-Day program, and thus be deprived of additional physical education time and other facets of the program.
Responding to a question from board member Debra McCann, Parker said he did not know if there was even space available for another section, but he was willing to check into it.
McCann added that, as a member of the school body’s operations committee who was not in the schools every day, she had to rely on the school administration to tell her what was operationally possible in terms of space for Full-Day kindergarten classes. It was her understanding that additional space was not available.
Board member David Dietze also said that the community had decided a few years ago that it did not want to build the extra space for a free kindergarten program. It was then that the board pursued a tuition-based program.
Richard Hanley, also a member of the education body, said there had been much debate in the community -- for more than three years -- about a Full-Day program, and the board had worked for more than two years since a free program was declined to decide on the tuition-based program.
Hanley, pointing out that the board had gone from no program to one with two classes and then, on February 4, to what he considered a “creative solution” to increase the program to six classes beginning with the 2015-16 school year.
Although he was sympathetic to those parents whose children were on wait lists, he said he was unwilling to engage in another discussion on the subject this year.
Former board president and continuing board member Gloria Ron-Fornes, said the board had to make its decision on what to invest and what space was available.
Board member James Freeman who, due to business commitments, could not be available for the February 4 vote on expanding the program to six classes, said he would have voted against the expansion because he had seen no research demonstrating a clear advantage after third grade for children who attend Full-Day kindergarten versus those who attend half-day sessions.
Robin Kanterman, who said she is a middle school teacher in another district and has been a teacher for 16 years, replied that there clearly was a benefit to Full-Day sessions, and she had seen the results of this from the Full-Day program which her son currently attends.
She added that not attending a Full Day kindergarten session in the Summit public schools would put her son at a disadvantage if he was to enter first grade in the Summit public schools.
Colbert, noting that the Summit public school education staff did see an advantage to a Full-Day program, added the school board had not been of one mind in moving from zero to six classes, but the education body would continue to look at the research and also would work hard to make sure the city’s existing free half-day program also provided the best educational experience possible.
She concluded, however, that the board was not prepared at this time to move forward with an additional class in the Full- Day program.
On another matter, resident Stacy Allan urged the school district to adopt a policy allowing students -- whose parents requested it -- to be allowed to opt-out of the state-mandated assessment tests known as PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) due to begin in New Jersey Schools this spring.
Parker replied that the state did not allow such opt-out policies, and he said he knew of no school district in Union County or in the Morris-Union Jointure which had a policy allowing students to opt-out of the tests.
Allan said that, in fact, the state would allow individual districts to decide whether to offer an opt-out option, but Parker disagreed, offering to provide the resident with a letter from the state education commissioner against such policies.
The Summit superintendent added that, thus far, he knew of only two students in the Hilltop City whose parents had requested that they be allowed to opt-out of the PARCC tests.
Parker added that he believed the tests were advantageous because they tested students on higher learning skills and would lead to better outcomes while providing a better assessment of teachers.
He also said New Jersey Assistant Commissioner of Education Bari Erlichson had included PARCC questions in the NJAsk Tests administered last year, and she also said that she expected New Jersey students to do better than their peers when they take the PARCC tests this year.
The superintendent also said Summit had piloted the PARCC tests last year and found that they worked well.
He noted that the Summit district’s treatment of students who did not take the PARCC tests would be the same as those who had not taken the NJAsk tests.
Replying to a question from McCann, the superintendent said there would be no punitive measures taken against students who did not take the PARCC tests, but the state might take action against districts where students did not take the tests.
In the neighboring Millburn Township School District, which is in Essex County, although parents have been reminded that the state mandates taking of the PARCC tests, parents must submit written requests if they wish their children to opt-out of the tests. Those who opt out will be permitted to bring recreational reading materials to the testing rooms while other students take the tests.
On another matter, the board adopted a 2015-16 school calendar, with school beginning on September 8, the day after Labor Day, and teachers reporting on September 2 and 3.
October 12 will be a holiday for students with a development day for staff. November 2 through 4 will include single-session days for first through fifth graders with parent-teacher conferences. School will be closed November 5 and 6 for the New Jersey Education Association Convention.
Also, there will be a winter recess on February 15 and 16, and a spring break from April 11 through 15, with school ending for students for the year after a single session on June 23.
However, if no snow days are used, school for students and staff will end on June 17; if two snow days are used school will end for students on June 21, and for staff on June 22; if three snow days are used school will end for students on June 22 and for staff on June 23; and if four snow days are used school will end for students on June 23 and for staff on June 24.
Parker also said that, if city schools are used for polling places on election days, police will be on duty in the schools and the costs of these patrols will be shared by the city and the district. He also said he expects that yellow police tape will be placed in schools used as polling places so that voters will go directly to the polls in the schools and not wander around.
On another calendar-related matter, Hanley said, due to the need for students to have less stress and prepare better for advanced placement examinations in May the district should consider starting school in August, as is the case in some other states.
Parker said some school activities, including band, often start in August.
Parents often have been reluctant to start school in August due to summer jobs, camps, and summer vacations.
Colbert said consideration would have to be given on whether an August start for the school year “trumps” other concerns, but she left the door open for future dialogue on the topic.