PREKINDERGARTEN CHANGES FOR 2019-20
Scroll to the bottom for FAQs.
Updated Taconic & Green MEMS PreK 2019-20 Plan (March 20, 2019)
At the March 18, 2019 Taconic and Green Regional School District (T&G) Special Meeting, the T&G Board reviewed the results of the parent PreK Survey and March 13/14 MEMS PreK Registration visits. After a thorough discussion, the Board approved the following revised Manchester Elementary Middle School (MEMS) PreK program proposal for 2019-20:
- Age: 4 years old as of September 1, 2019
- Towns served: Dorset, Landgrove, Londonderry, Manchester, Peru, Sunderland, and Weston
- Weekly Coverage: Five days, with four full days until 3:00 pm and one “To-Be-Determined” early release day at 11:30 am. A final decision on the designated early release day will be made this spring.
The capacity for this 2019-20 program at MEMS is 31 students. T&G will work with families unable to secure a space at MEMS to find alternative PreK programs.
The T&G Board also approved a motion to request, from the appropriate State of Vermont Agencies, the right to expand the MEMS public T&G PreK program. We will update the public on our progress in the months ahead, but all signs suggest that our capacity will remain at the current level for the 2019-20 year.
Taconic & Green: School-Based Public Prekindergarten Statement
On February 5, 2019, Superintendent Jackie Wilson updated the Taconic & Green (T&G) Regional School Board of Directors on plans for extending prekindergarten (PreK) education for the upcoming 2019-20 school year. The plan to extend school-based public PreK service to all children in the nine T&G communities is a result of the Northshire Merger Agreement approved by all the towns in the March 2017 vote to ratify the T&G consolidation. As a single district, the BRSU leadership and T&G Board must now strive to provide equitable educational opportunities to all its children.
Currently, school-based public PreK is offered only in the T&G communities of Danby, Mt. Tabor and Manchester. The towns of Dorset, Landgrove, Londonderry, Peru, Sunderland, and Weston all receive 10 free hours of public PreK education provided under Act 166 from local providers, but do not have access to school-based public preK, or to more than 10 hours of PreK education.
Public PreK in the BRSU consists of three school-based programs - Mettawee Community School, Currier Memorial School, and Manchester Elementary Middle School. They also partner with many Prequalified Partner Programs who have met this qualification through the Agency of Education (AOE). All school-based programs and partnering sites have a licensed teacher on staff, follow a curriculum aligned with the Vermont Early Learning Standards (VELS) and document student growth through Teaching Strategies GOLD. Current partnering sites include Northshire Day School, Take Five, Stepping Stones, The Lawrence School for Young Children, Happy Days, The Little School, and West River Montessori School. As per Act 166, BRSU also partners with Pre-qualified Providers within the BRSU PreK region upon a parent’s request.
It is important to note that PreK education differs notably from child care. Its primary objective is to prepare children with the social and emotional skills helpful in making the transition to kindergarten. With the passage of Act 166 in 2014, students are eligible for 10 hours per week of PreK education. Any additional hours provided in a public PreK education program are funded by the taxpayers. PreK curriculum and instruction is overseen by the Agency of Human Services (AHS) and the Agency of Education (AOE).
The MEMS PreK program for Manchester children started in 2010. Over the years, it has been adjusted to meet changes in demand and state regulations. Prior to the T&G merger, any additional PreK costs not covered by the state of Vermont were paid for by Manchester taxpayers. With the new merger agreement now in place, the MEMS PreK program is supported by all T&G communities. MEMS is currently licensed to operate two public PreK classrooms, serving 31 children. State of Vermont rules prevent T&G from adding additional classroom capacity at MEMS until we can document that our communities don’t have capacity to serve our 3 and 4 year olds. Between our school-based and private PreK providers, we do have ample capacity, so it is highly unlikely (or: making it highly unlikely) that the State would grant a request for expansion (at this time). However, if demand is high we will explore expansion.
The Currier Memorial School currently provides licensed PreK for 3 and 4 year olds of Danby and Mt. Tabor. The full day program at Currier is available four days a week during the school year and will continue in the 2019-20 academic year. The PreK program offered in the separate Mettawee School District, is also a four day program, but students only attend for 10 - 14 hours per week. In recent years, the Manchester Elementary Middle School (MEMS) offered public PreK to 4 year olds, and at-risk 3 year olds, for Manchester residents only, for five days a week. Next year, the PreK program housed at MEMS will be changing to provide public PreK access for children from the communities of Dorset, Landgrove, Londonderry, Manchester, Peru, Sunderland, and Weston.
Planning for the upcoming year was further complicated by two necessary changes to the MEMS PreK that would have taken place regardless of the requirements of the T&G merger. First, like the program at Currier (and Mettawee), there is a need to move from a five day to a four day program. Teachers who work in the school-based program have contractual rights to planning time which are difficult to meet under the five day system. The move to the four day program, will satisfy contractual planning requirements and allow the teachers to participate in specific PreK professional development. Second, since transportation safety regulations for preschoolers are more stringent than for K-12 students, T&G will no longer be able to use their basic bus service to transport PreK students to and from MEMS. Parents will be responsible for getting their preK children to and from school.
In extending the MEMS PreK application to include the towns of Dorset, Landgrove, Londonderry, Peru, Sunderland and Weston, T&G has made additional adjustments to the program to be able to accept more students. First, the MEMS PreK program will now be available only to four year olds. Since the program is usually composed mainly of 4 year old students (90% this past year), this change may have minimal impact. Second, we will offer multiple enrollment options - a four day option and 2 two day options. Currently, 31 students are in the MEMS program. By adding the two day per week option, MEMS may be able to increase its capacity to as many as 50 students.
The goal is to meet the needs of families and every attempt will be made to do this. However, if the demand for four days surpasses available capacity, a random lottery system will be used to determine enrollment. The MEMS program partners with Head Start, so per Head Start requirements, students who are deemed Head Start eligible will be enrolled in the four day program. If a family is unable to secure enrollment in the MEMS program, the BRSU Early Education Coordinator will work with families to find placement for their child/children with a private provider.
T&G emphasizes that the 2019-20 changes in our public PreK is just the beginning. If the demand for school-based public PreK this spring exceeds capacity we will explore seeking approval from the State of Vermont to expand. We will also work with our state legislators to determine how Act 166 can be amended to give more control to local school districts in meeting the specific preK needs of their local communities.
The components of the MEMS 2019-20 PreK program is as follows:
● Age: 4 years old as of September 1, 2019.
● Towns served: Dorset, Landgrove, Londonderry, Manchester, Peru, Sunderland, and Weston.
● Weekly Coverage: Two days per week, Monday & Wednesday or Tuesday & Thursday (approximately 14 hours per week), or four days per week, Monday through Thursday (approximately 28 hours per week).
● Parents will provide transportation.
For further information on T&G preK, please go to the BRSU website at BRSU.org. There you will find a FAQ sheet with questions and answers on the PreK program. This will be updated as more information becomes available.
1. Why is the PreK program at Manchester Elementary Middle School (MEMS) changing?
On July 1, 2018, the Manchester School District merged with six other school districts and became part of the Taconic & Green Regional School District. The new Taconic & Green District must offer equal access to public PreK for children from all our communities. The voter approved Taconic & Green merger agreement allowed for the existing PreK program to be continued for the 2018-19 school year. A new PreK program, that meets the objective of the merger agreement, must be in place for the 2019-20 school year.
2. When did the PreK program at MEMS begin and why was it started?
The 5-day program at MEMS began in 2010, which was prior to Act 166. The MEMS program was launched because a community needs assessment revealed that there was not enough programming locally to provide PreK education. The district was then granted authority by the State to operate a public school-based preK program to fill the unmet need. The decision to offer five full days was made in hopes of better serving at-risk students who were not enrolling in any PreK programs locally. The Board believed it was responsible to invest early in the education of children, especially those most at risk.
3. What is Act 166?
In 2014, the State of Vermont enacted Act 166 to provide for universal access to publicly funded prekindergarten education. All public and private prekindergarten (PreK) education programs, including Head Start and public school operated programs, must meet specific requirements to operate a PreK program in Vermont. The Agency of Education, in collaboration with the Agency of Human Services, regulate prekindergarten education. A link to Act 166 is available at brsu.org.
4. How many hours of prekindergarten education are provided under Act 166?
The law provides for 10 hours of taxpayer supported PreK for 35 weeks, for all 3 and 4 year olds in an approved program.
5. Is the Vermont state legislature considering amendments to Act 166?
Maybe. Act 166 promises to be a hot topic this season in the legislature so some changes may be made. However, at this point we don’t have any details.
6. What changes are being planned for the MEMS program?
To increase the ability for more children to participate, several options will be available: a four day option, and 2 two day options (Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday). All options will be full day, beginning at approximately 8:15 and ending at approximately 2:45.
7. Who is eligible to participate in the MEMS program?
Beginning with the 2019-20 school year, 4 year olds from Dorset, Landgrove, Londonderry, Manchester, Peru, Sunderland and Weston are eligible to participate in the program. Students must be 4 years old by September 1 to be eligible.
8. Why will the MEMS program be limited to only four year olds?
The MEMS program will be limited to only four year olds in hopes of increasing capacity to meet enrollment requests. Three year olds are still eligible to receive 10 hours of prekindergarten education under Act 166 and can access approved private provider programs.
9. Why will the new program operate for four days instead of five?
The teachers who teach in our public programs are protected under a master agreement. The master agreement stipulates that teachers receive a specified amount of time for planning each week and a duty-free lunch. In the past, to meet these contractual requirements, MEMS has had preK children attend unified arts specials. We don’t find this practice educationally ideal for our young learners and believe it would be better for them to spend their day in the preK classroom, with their preK teacher. Every Friday, the preK teachers will have a day to plan for the week, complete monitoring reports, and engage in professional development. This schedule will satisfy master agreement demands.
10. Why can’t the Manchester program just be expanded to serve more students?
Vermont Statute (16 V.S.A, §829(e)(2)) requires districts to prove that expansion is needed because PreK education demands cannot be met. Our current data reveals that this is not the case in our region. We have many qualified private providers and therefore have the ability to provide the 10 hours to all our 3 and 4 year olds. Any expansion must be approved by both the Agency of Human Services and the Agency of Education. However, if demand is high for four days, we will explore the expansion option.
11. Does the new PreK program provide an opportunity for T&G to make the case to the State of Vermont that more preK capacity is needed?
Yes, if the demand is high for participation and we are not able to place all students, we will consider approaching the State of Vermont to request public school-based PreK expansion.
12. If most families choose the four day option, how will participation decisions be made?
If the majority of families opt for the four day program we will evaluate next steps. Options may include approaching the State to request expansion, using a lottery system, or defaulting to two days for all students. Until we complete the pre-registration process we won’t have a sense of demand.
13. Will Head Start students continue to be served at the MEMS site?
Head Start requires that a certain level of need for support exists and this won’t be determined until later this spring. Students who are identified as at-risk by Head Start must enroll for four days per Head Start requirements. Head Start provides additional resources and staffing for at-risk students and families.
14. How do I enroll my child?
On March 13 and 14, MEMS will host pre-registration. Detailed information regarding signing up for a time slot on one of those days will be forthcoming very shortly.
15. If using a lottery system becomes necessary, how would that work?
If demand for four days is high, and we aren’t able to place all students in the four day program, we will use a random draw lottery. A wait list will be created that reflects the order in which names were drawn.
16. What would the hours of the program be?
The program will align with MEMS’s regular school day hours. Schools often make adjustments to beginning and end times but we anticipate the hours to be approximately 8:15 - 2:45.
17. How come transportation will no longer be provided?
Transportation safety regulations for preschoolers are more stringent than for K-12 students and these regulations cannot be met by using our current K-12 transportation system. Parents will be responsible for getting their preK children to and from school.
18. Does my child need to attend a school-based PreK program to get 10 free hours of PreK education?
No, three and four year olds can enroll with any approved prequalified private provider within the BRSU Region.
19. Under the new plan, will the Taconic & Green School District continue to work with local providers and parents to identify a placement?
Absolutely. We have excellent local private providers who we partner with and we have always been able to identify a placement.
20. How was the MEMS program paid for in the past?
The costs to run the MEMS program were included in the Manchester School District budget prior to this year, and are currently included in the Taconic & Green budget.
21. Who pays for the new PreK program at MEMS?
The costs of staffing the PreK program at MEMS is included in the Taconic and Green Regional School District annual budget and is paid for by local and intergovernmental revenues, including the education fund. In the first year of operation, the 2018-19 academic year, the taxpayers in all nine communities have supported the PreK programs at both MEMS and Currier Elementary.
22. Does the state reimburse the district for student attendance in the MEMS program or private providers?
The state does not reimburse the costs of PreK programs. All costs are included in the district budget, both program and private provider costs. The students are then counted in the districts Average Daily Membership (ADM) count each fall, which contributes to the equalized pupil figure used in the tax rate calculation.
23. In the past, what happened if the MEMS program was full?
If the MEMS program was at capacity, the district’s early education administrator worked with local providers and parents to identify a placement.
24. Are there other school-based PreK programs in Taconic & Green?
Yes, the Currier Memorial School operates a four day program for three and four year olds from the towns of Danby and Mt. Tabor.
25. How does PreK education differ from child care?
We have received feedback from families who are concerned about loss of child care hours. Child and PreK education are different. Prekindergarten education in an approved program must be delivered by a licensed teacher, in a licensed facility. Curriculum and instruction is overseen by the Agency of Human Services (AHS) and the Agency of Education (AOE). Child care can be provided in a variety of settings, is paid for by parents, and is not regulated by the AHS or AOE. Child care facilities are regulated by the Department for Children and Families.