Supt. Tremblay explains PREDS elimination

Feb 7, 2018 by

Published in the February 7, 2018 edition

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — Maintaining small classes is the reason why the Preschool Extended Day (PREDS) program was eliminated for next year, Superintendent Jane Tremblay said in a letter last week.

Community Schools runs the PREDS program at Summer Street School from September through June. Community Schools accepts children between ages 2 years and 9 months to pre-kindergarten into the program. According to Community Schools Director Michaelann Herook, 24 children are enrolled in the day care program.

The elimination of PREDS was discussed during the Jan. 29 School Committee and Board of Selectmen meetings, where the School Department’s budgetary challenges for fiscal year 2019 were outlined (see separate story).

The decision to eliminate PREDS has sparked a backlash from local parents, including Pillings Pond Road resident Crystal Bates.

Bates created a petition calling for the PREDS program to be reinstated for the 2018-2019 school year on Change.org. She also requested creating a special task force to evaluate school space issues. As of Tuesday morning, 284 people signed the petition.

In a letter sent to Bates that was obtained by the Villager, Tremblay said she is “fully aware and understands the concerns” shared by parents regarding the elimination of PREDS. She said the decision to end the program was “very difficult” and was a decision school officials “did not take lightly.”

“We made every effort until the last possible moment to find ways to keep the program intact,” said Tremblay. “As mentioned (Jan. 29) in the budget presentation, enrollment is a factor in a public school system that is ever changing.”

Tremblay said school officials “continuously monitor” kindergarten enrollment throughout the school year.

“At the beginning of the school year, Summer Street kindergarten classes had a total of 87 students,” said Tremblay. “Throughout the fall, we welcomed new students and in early January, we realized that we would be welcoming additional new families to our community, bringing our current kindergarten total to 91 students. Upon confirmation of this information and after much review and consultation with the Administrative Leadership Team, I made the decision to run five first grade classrooms for the 2018-2019 school year. My decision to maintain class sizes in compliance with our guidelines ensures a high quality of teaching and learning and protects the core philosophy of the School Committee and school district.”

As part of the FY’19 budget process, Tremblay conducted “several walkthroughs of Summer Street School to plan for instructional space for the 2018-2019 school year.”

“Entering these meetings, we knew we would have to reconfigure the instructional spaces to accommodate one additional classroom,” said Tremblay. “After looking at every space available in the school and carefully preserving spaces for our special education services including therapies and academic tutors, it became abundantly evident that we would not have the space to run the PREDS program. Knowing that this decision would cause a burden and inconvenience to our families, we continued to problem solve with the hope of finding a creative solution that would not impact instructional spaces. We exhausted all possible solutions. In the end, we concluded there was not a viable option available to us within the district. At this time, I communicated the change to families.”

Tremblay acknowledged “my job as the leader of our district is to make decisions that are extremely difficult and, at times, unpopular.”

“I have and will continue to make decisions that are in the best interest of the school district,” added Tremblay. “The decision to run an additional first grade classroom is in the best interest of the district. Unfortunately, there are consequences with every decision. The consequence to this decision is the elimination of PREDS, a program that our families have come to love and rely on. I understand and appreciate the frustration and extreme disappointment that some of our families are feeling at this time.”

While Tremblay said she appreciated Bates’ suggestion that a special task force be created to evaluate the school system’s space issues, the superintendent said “it is not something we will be putting in place at this time.”

“Please be assured that we will begin the conversation regarding space for the 2019-2020 school year with teachers and administration early in the 2018-2019 school year,” said Tremblay.

In post on the Change.org page, Bates said both she and Summer Street parent Kathryn Price were scheduled to discuss the elimination of PREDS and school space issues during Tuesday’s School Committee meeting. Tremblay and Special Services Director Kara Mauro also held an informational meeting about PREDS on Wednesday, Feb. 7.

The School Committee and informational meetings both took place after the Villager went to press.

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