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Superintendent Recommends Taking More Open Choice Students to Fund Pre-K

Second class at Farmington Collaborative Preschool would reduce waiting list, offer more spots for local children.

In response to a long waiting list of parents hoping to get their children into the Farmington Collaborative Preschool, Superintendent Kathleen Greider proposed adding another class and funding it by taking an additional six Project Open Choice students.

The state offers per pupil reimbursement as well as other grants based on percentage of school and district population for those participating in Open Choice, the state program that allows students from urban areas, specifically Hartford, to attend suburban schools. Farmington currently has 97 Open Choice students enrolled - 2.3 percent of the district's population. 

Greider explained at the Board of Education meeting Monday night that Farmington uses the Open Choice funds to pay for several programs, including math tutors, professional development, cultural enrichment programs and the entire cost of tuition for Farmington students who choose to attend CREC magnet schools. 

Now, Greider would like to see it pay for another classroom at the preschool at Noah Wallace School. 

There are a couple of benefits, Greider said, including opening up space in the popular program for Farmington students currently on the waiting list. Also, she said, Project Choice students coming into the district will have the advantage of attending the preschool program, putting them ahead when they start school.

"We believe there is a lot of research to show bringing students in at the pre-k level has a long-term impact," she said. "Bringing them in at a pre-k level is preferable for us."

Enrolling six to eight Open Choice students (at a reimbursement rate of $8,500 per pre-k student) would allow the program to be self-sustaining, once tuition for Farmington students is included. Each class has about 18 to 20 students.

To continue to be self-sustaining, the program would have to enroll six to eight new Open Choice students each year, Greider said. The proposal would bring the district's percentage of Open Choice students up to about 2.6 percent, she estimated - not enough to bump the district into the next bracket, which is awarded a larger grant.

Ann Randolph March 13, 2013 at 02:03 AM
"Open Choice" students from Hartford are able to attend school in whichever town they are accepted THROUGH GRADUATION from high school. As it stands, if they enter in kindergarten, they will receive 13 years of schooling. If they enter at age 3 for pre-school, they will attend for 15 years. Guaranteed. In this season of budget discussions and in the spirit of transparency, could Patch PLEASE write an article (not just a response to this comment) and explain IN DETAIL the Open Choice program. It's great that by opening up a 2nd pre-school classroom, the local families would be able to get off of the waiting list, but what are the REAL long-term implications here? We keep HEARING about the money that the school system receives from these Open Choice grants, but what happens when/if they dry up and Farmington is still expected to see these students through until they graduate from high school. I would just like to read a balanced narrative on what the program TRULY entails. Thank you in advance.
Phil Dunn March 14, 2013 at 12:28 PM
Based on the actual cost to educate a student in Farmington each year we begin losing money on each Open Choice student in year one. I don't know how the Superintendent can make the representation she made about the actual cost. The pre-k program should be scrapped in its entirety as the Federal "Head Start" program has now been shown to be of no benefit (by its own admission) over years and years of study and billions of dollars spent. Pre-k programs in communities such as Farmington cannot demonstrate any benefit on standardized testing once the children are old enough to take them. Why would we expand what amounts to a very very expensive daycare program? If indeed the Board of Education has extra money in the budget it should look to restore the Latin program and/or make the technology purchases it still requires. Those expenditures have proven benefits.
Ann Randolph April 30, 2013 at 12:27 PM
The budget vote is this Thursday. I peruse Patch (most) every day and have not seen any additional information about "Open Choice". Was an article run and did I miss it? I'm really interested in hearing how the program runs and the TRUE costs to the Farmington taxpayers. I look forward to a response. Thank you.

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