A group of parents that has been pushing Gorham’s school district to offer all-day kindergarten is redoubling its efforts and asking the School Committee to add the program to its budget before a Town Council vote Tuesday — or else.

The Gorham All-Day Kindergarten for All Kids Committee sent an email to town and school officials Thursday with a petition, which 600 residents signed in support of adding all-day kindergarten to the district’s 2012-13 budget.

“We are parents and community members who annually vote for and support the school and its budget but who are prepared to send it back until there is a commitment to all-day kindergarten,” the group wrote in the email.

Since the opening of the Great Falls Elementary School in the fall, Gorham has had enough space for all-day kindergarten, but school officials have felt it’s not the right time to add costs on taxpayers.

Most of the 181 kindergartners in Gorham’s three elementary schools this year attend a half-day program, either in the morning or the afternoon. About 15 percent of them are in an extended-day program because they are behind their peers in academic or maturity level. The schools also have a summer program to keep children performing at grade level.

“We think we have a good program going. … We’re choosing to use our resources in that manner,” Superintendent Ted Sharp said in an interview last month.

Gorham is one of five school districts in Cumberland and York counties that don’t offer all-day kindergarten, according to a survey by the Maine Department of Education. One of them, Yarmouth, has included the program in its budget for next year. The others are Cape Elizabeth, Long Island and Eliot-based Marshwood.

The parents group in Gorham attended School Committee meetings on the budget earlier this year. It didn’t gain much support from the committee to expand the kindergarten program anytime soon, and all but gave up on having all-day kindergarten next year.

But as those parents continued to hear there was support in the community, they realized they had other options for getting what they wanted, and decided not to wait to try again.

“We got together and had another conversation and said, ‘Why? Why are we accepting this another year?’” said Kelli Deveaux, the group’s leader.

In recent weeks, the group has gotten the attention of some town councilors, who will vote Tuesday on whether to approve the $32.2 million budget passed by the School Committee in April.

The proposed budget would increase Gorham’s property tax rate by 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, adding $56 to the tax bill for a $200,000 home. Adding an all-day kindergarten program at an estimated cost of $400,000 would more than double the tax increase, to 59 cents, said Hollis Cobb, finance officer for Gorham schools.

Although the Town Council decides how much money the school department can spend, it doesn’t have a say in how the money is spent, Cobb said.

That’s why the parents group is making a final appeal to the School Committee before the council’s vote.

If the committee does nothing, the group will encourage the council to vote against the proposed budget, Deveaux said. That would force the School Committee to make adjustments — though not necessarily add all-day kindergarten — before a townwide referendum on the school budget June 12.

If the council approves the budget as proposed, the group will urge residents to vote it down in the referendum, which would force the School Committee to revisit the spending plan.

“This is the process and this is why it’s here. We need to be heard and we need to be responded to,” said Deveaux, who handed out balloons and information about all-day kindergarten last weekend from a booth at the Gorham Founder’s Festival.

Deveaux, an assistant principal at Windham High School, has three children. One has been through kindergarten, and the others will attend starting in 2014 and 2015.

But for her, that doesn’t mean there’s time to spare.

“This isn’t about my kids personally. This is about what’s right for every kid in Gorham,” she said.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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