WEYMOUTH — The district will receive money from the state to help launch its universal full-day kindergarten program this fall.
The state Senate recently passed a $1.1 billion COVID-19 supplemental budget to cover expenses from the public health crisis and to support areas impacted by the pandemic, including health care, housing, food assistance and early education.
State Sen. Patrick O’Connor, a Weymouth Republican, secured $250,000 to help pay for the town’s full-day kindergarten program for the upcoming school year.
O’Connor said in a message announcing the funding that more than 90 percent of school districts in Massachusetts offer free full-day kindergarten, and he and state Rep. James Murphy, a Weymouth Democrat, had advocated together for the money.
“Providing this service is very costly, so I am glad we were able to include $250,000 in funding for Weymouth in this budget to make sure free full-day kindergarten is a reality in the community,” he wrote.
Superintendent Jennifer Curtis-Whipple said in a statement that the district appreciates O’Connor’s work and support for the program.
“We are extremely excited to join other Massachusetts school communities in offering universal full-day kindergarten to our community members,” she said. “This program has been years in the making and will benefit our students, our district and our community members immensely. ”
The district will eliminate the lottery system for tuition-based full day kindergarten, and instead offer it free-of-charge for all families as part of a pilot program. More than 400 families have enrolled students to attend the full-day program this fall
The district’s plan to move forward with universal full-day kindergarten became a point of contention this spring as the town grappled with dwindling revenues and an uncertain financial future due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown.
While the district looked at making cuts to its budget, school officials said they would still launch the program, which is projected to cost $1.2 million, in part by depleting a revolving account with more than $850,000 collected through years worth of kindergarten tuition. The more than $330,000 the town currently spends on half-day kindergarten will cover the rest of the cost of the new program.
Town officials, including Mayor Robert Hedlund and Weymouth City Council Vice President Michael Molisse, questioned this decision and said it didn’t make sense to launch new programs in the midst of so much financial uncertainty and instability.
But Curtis-Whipple and other school administrators said the district had already made a commitment to families and needed to stand by it.
Lisa Belmarsh, chairwoman of the school committee, said universal full-day kindergarten plays an essential role in increasing access to education and support services for all students.
“The school committee is hopeful that universal full-day kindergarten will help Weymouth Schools take another large step towards increasing the caliber of educational services we are able to provide to Weymouth families,” she said.
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