GORHAM – The Gorham School Committee got two clear messages Wednesday from about 20 speakers at a public hearing on its budget: Add an all-day kindergarten program and don’t cut the hours of educational technicians.

A group of parents has been pushing school officials since last year to extend the kindergarten program from half-day to all-day, as it is in almost all districts in the area. On Wednesday, some parents wore black buttons that said “I believe in all-day K for Gorham.”

Also at the hearing was a group of educational technicians and teachers who pleaded for the board not to reduce ed tech’s hours from 6.5 to 6 per day, as proposed in Superintendent Ted Sharp’s $32.6 million budget for 2013-14. The cut would save $102,000.

“The impact is going to be real and it’s going to be very direct,” said Michael Wojtal, an ed tech at Gorham High School.

Maryanne Connolly, a special-education teacher at Narragansett Elementary School, said she’s worried about how losing ed techs for a half-hour could affect the safety of students.

“When you’re there day in and day out, you see what happens every minute of the day,” she said.

Susan Grygiel, who works with Connolly, said she and the other ed techs are already “all in early and all leave late to make sure things are ready for our children every single day.”

They won’t be able to do that if they’re headed to their second jobs, which many have talked about needing, she said.

Most of the other comments came from supporters of all-day kindergarten.

Sarah Plummer said her daughter, who is in the half-day program, told her she doesn’t like using glue at school because her hands get sticky and she doesn’t have time to wash them. That’s how busy the classroom can be.

Kate Thomas, a special-education teacher in Windham, said half-day kindergarten is considered “two and a half hours of boot camp” for teachers trying to get their students to meet standards.

A recent report by a committee formed to study all-day kindergarten estimated the cost at $555,000 in the first year and $502,000 every year after that.

Hollis Cobb, the schools’ finance officer, said each cent on the tax rate equates to roughly $13,000. By that calculation, the first-year cost would add about 43 cents to the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed valuation. It would add $86 to the property tax bill for a $200,000 home.

That’s based on the costs calculated by the report, which did not recommend starting all-day kindergarten because of the expense.

Vanessa Levesque, a mother and a first-grade teacher, disputed the costs in the report, saying items like five kidney-shaped tables listed at $672 each seemed “grossly inflated.”

The School Committee will vote on the budget April 10.

 

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

lbridgers@pressherald.com