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Published: Wednesday, 5/25/2005

Bedford Township: Response to all-day kindergarten spurs new class

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - In each of Bedford Township's five elementary schools last week, small groups of adults came to watch individual lotteries that determine whether their children will be enrolled in their neighborhood school's popular all-day, every-day kindergarten class.

Some were relieved; others disappointed.

"She just came home and cried," Christine Barber said after her daughter, Stacy Wilke, returned from the lottery where she hoped to get Mrs. Barber's granddaughter, Hannah Wilke, into the class at Temperance Road Elementary. "I felt so bad for her."

But with more than 100 families throughout the five schools whose children didn't appear to make the initial cut, Bedford Public Schools officials have opted to spend the extra money to open up one extra section of the popular kindergarten option at Smith Road Elementary - and open it to all those children who didn't get chosen.

Those interested can get a second bite at the apple during a supplemental lottery based on their previous selection, to be held next month.

During that process, which will be overseen by the five elementary principals, the available slots in the extra classroom will be divvied up and allocated district-wide based on the size of the originating school and the child's gender, Bedford Acting Superintendent Jon White said.

"Parents who previously had registered for neighborhood schools and were not selected will be eligible for the class," Mr. White said.

There's just one catch: unless the child is already from the Smith Road district, their family will have to provide transportation to and from the school each day as they would if they had chosen to participate in Bedford's Elementary School-of-Choice program.

The extra all-day classroom could cost the financially-struggling district between $50,000 and $60,000 extra next year, but district officials hope that the extra section will convince at least some of those parents from seeking other educational options, such as the countywide school-of-choice program, New Bedford Academy, or parochial schools.

Letters were handed out or mailed late last week notifying parents of incoming kindergartners who had signed up for the all-day option how they had fared in their local lottery and providing them information about the extra section at Smith Road.

But Mr. White cautioned that it may take several weeks before parents who participated in the lotteries can be sure if their child will participate, even if they were among the first selected.

If a child was selected for their local program, but they qualify - through testing - for the district's Young Fives program (with a birthday roughly between Aug. 24 and Dec. 1), they won't be eligible for either of the all-day, every-day kindergarten classes, Mr. White said.

"We're just advising parents to stay in touch and be patient," Mr. White said.



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