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Parents weren't told of kindergarten change

September 28, 2000

Parents weren't told of kindergarten change



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


The Washington County Board of Education's director of elementary education said he was responsible for not notifying parents of Funkstown Elementary kindergartners that the session would move from half-day to full-day this school year until after the School Board approved it two weeks ago.

"I am the only one who can take responsibility," John Festerman, director of elementary education said. "I wanted to have all the information accurate before I got it out to you."

He also said he didn't know how the School Board would respond to his proposal for a full-day session.

Parents met with the school's principal and Festerman Thursday night to discuss concerns about the switch and to ask why they hadn't been notified beforehand.

Pam Newhouse, chairwoman of Funkstown Elementary's Community Action Council, said parents found about the changes by reading it in the newspaper.

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"You could have avoided a lot of this if you would have come to talk to us and given us a heads up," Newhouse said. "We're not stupid. It's not like you couldn't have come to us and say this is what's going on."

Thirteen children from the morning session and eight from the afternoon session will be combined into one full-day class Monday, Festerman said. Parents, however, have the option of sending their children to a half-day session at another school. So far, parents of 20 of the 21 kindergarten students have opted for full-day.

Small kindergarten enrollments at the school allowed the School Board to combine the two classes for a full-day session, he said. The class will be locally funded, unlike the three pilot all-day kindergarten classes at Marshall Street School, which are funded through state grants.

The School Board would like to have full-day kindergarten classes in place at all elementary schools in the next school year.

Festerman said he tried to do what is best for the Funkstown community.

"Don't you think the parents should have been the first to know instead of the last?" Funkstown Mayor Robert Kline asked.

"That's true, Mr. Kline," Festerman said. "I will learn from it as well as anyone else."

Tim Owens, who has a child in the kindergarten class at Funkstown, was skeptical that combining classes would be beneficial for students. He said the larger class size will take away from the amount of time the teacher has to individually interact with students.

Funkstown Elementary ranked 22 out of the county's 26 elementary schools on the School Performance Index for the 1998-99 school year. State standards for attendance, MSPAP statistics and dropout rates are included in the SPI ranking. It ranked 29 out of the 34 elementary and middle schools in the county on the MSPAP Composite Performance Index.

"You're making this situation worse," Owens said. "I don't see how that is going to be beneficial."

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