George W. Davis

GREEN: Tuition-free, all-day classes will begin Aug. 20 for all Green kindergartners following unanimous approval by the Board of Education on Thursday night.

“This has been talked about for years, and now we can do it,” Superintendent Jeffrey L. Miller II said after the meeting.

Green has had full-day and half-day classes for kindergartners with parents paying $2,340 per pupil in tuition for the all-day option.

Almost 20 school bus drivers and supporters who attended the meeting said they didn’t learn of the plan to drop half-day kindergarten until about 2 p.m. Thursday — the time they were about to start their afternoon bus runs. They questioned why they weren’t told earlier, considering the impact on wages because trips probably will be trimmed from three per day to two.

Miller said no drivers and none of the 13 kindergarten teachers at Greenwood Early Learning Center will lose jobs as a result of the upcoming changes. He said the administration was unable to announce the pending changes until the board voted to accept or reject the recommendation.

Principal Scott Aten said it is too early to know how many full-time kindergartners will be enrolled this fall. The district might need to hire another teacher or two.

He said there are 102 half-day kindergartners this year and 206 full-day pupils. The administration is projecting 290 by August.

Aten said standards are requiring kindergartners to read and write now rather than not teaching those skills until first grade. He encouraged parents to consider preschool to prepare children for kindergarten.

Board member Sally Fanelli publicly apologized to the drivers for the lateness in their learning of the plan, as did board President Bob Campbell, who said nothing was done underhanded concerning all-time kindergarten.

“This is the right thing to do; no question about it,” said member Katie Stoynoff, who said students will receive more one-on-one time with teachers, which is critical. “All day is icing on the cake,” she said.

Also Thursday, the board approved the district’s five-year financial forecast in which projections show no red ink through fiscal 2018. That comes as a result of more than $1 million in spending reductions over the past year and from additional funds from the state and from delinquent tax collections.

Green Primary School students were thanked via video of children at the Ghana orphanage supported through the House of Hope ministries. Green students raised $3,093 to buy a generator for the facility and more than $11,000 to help support the orphanage.

George W. Davis can be reached at mediaman@sssnet.com.