The Milton School District’s 4-year-old kindergarten program no longer will be offered at non-school district sites beginning with the 2020-21 school year.

By leasing space in the community, as the district does now, “the cost is a little bit over $150,000 per year, so there is a pretty significant cost savings to make in this change,” Superintendent Rich Dahman told the school board Monday.

Starting next school year, 4K will be offered at Milton East, Milton West and Harmony elementary schools. Dahman said only one elementary, Consolidated, will not have space to offer 4K.

This school year, 148 of 177 students enrolled in 4K attend school at the Small Wonders Learning Center, 880 McEwan Lane. The remaining students attend 4K at Milton West, which offers one morning session and one afternoon session.

Six morning sessions and six afternoon sessions are offered this year. Dahman said the same number of sessions is anticipated next year.

The timing to bring 4K into district buildings corresponds with additions at East, West and Harmony as a result of the $59.9 million referendum approved last April.

“As we’re transitioning into additional space in our elementary schools, we’ll be able to utilize two classrooms,” Dahman said.

He clarified that the 4K classrooms won’t necessarily be in the new spaces.

Each school will have two 4K teachers. Dahman said the move will not reduce staff.

“We really feel with our projected enrollment remaining stable over the next four to five years that we still would have space for some growth in those elementary schools,” he said. “This would be a win-win for us financially and to best meet our academic needs for our students.”

Benefits of the move, according to a memo from Dahman, include:

  • More seamless transition from 4K into kindergarten for students and families.
  • Better access to support services.
  • Allowing students to attend school with their older siblings, which means one less transition for families.

Responding to a question from school board President Joe Martin, Dahman said bringing 4K into district buildings might especially encourage parents living near Harmony to enroll their children in 4K.

In the program, families can rank their preferences but are not guaranteed a spot. A 4K brochure says placement decisions are based on programming needs, transportation needs and availability.

Dahman said letters of school placement will be mailed at the beginning of June.

In the 2018-19 school year, the 4K program moved from multiple community sites to one site at Small Wonders.

Beth Drew of R&B Properties said the space the 4K program is vacating will be available for lease.

When asked if Small Wonders might expand, Drew, who also is the owner/director, said, “We’ve intentionally downsized over the years. We’re really good with the numbers we’re at right now. The ability to provide caring, consistent care needs to be ensured for all our families.”