Wellington Tour: Stop 1 – the office

Wellington’s main office is tiny. Even worse: it was sweltering late Tuesday night, even hours after they shut down the steam boilers that turn this part of the building into a sauna during the daytime. Other parts of the school are serviced by a separate hot water system, and are too cold for much of the day.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNJiUWZchO4]

Wellington School: steam and sinkholes and exhaust! Oh my!

We’ve all been reading about the upcoming debt exclusion to fund reconstruction of the Wellington Elementary School and other “expensive items,” as the Belmont Citizen Herald referred to them. What’s harder to grasp from a news story is why a total overhaul at Wellington is necessary. Wellington, after all, was one of just 49 schools state wide to be selected by the Massachusetts School Building Authority for a Feasibility Study, so obviously the State thinks things are pretty dire. But parents (myself included) who don’t have children at the school may not sense the urgency of the situation there. God knows I didn’t, which is why I was glad I took a tour with Wellington parent Karen Parmett and Wellington’s facilities director just before the Tuesday School Committee Meeting.

Whether its outdated heating and electrical systems that run operating costs up 50% per child, half century old heating systems that make some students swelter while others bundle up, windowless classrooms in the basement or sinkholes in the parking lot…this school needs a radical makeover. To help the BB community see for themselves, I took along my handy Canon Powershot and made some videos from the tour. Over the next couple days, I’m going to be uploading them and letting you, the BloggingBelmont audience, check out the Wellington tour — raw and unedited — and decide for yourself.

School Committee gives thumbs up to Full Day Kindergarten

Just back from the School Committee meeting. Let me say, first of all, that the Belmont Madrigal Singers rocked the house. Great work to everyone…and where can one buy the funky medieval garb?

Belmont Madrigal Singers

On a more serious note — what’s to report is this: the Belmont School Committee heard a report from the Belmont Public Schools’ Kindergarten Task Force at a Committee meeting at Wellington Elementary on Tuesday evening, which called for a full day kindergarten program, fully funded by the School Department for the 2008/2009 academic year. The report, presented by Wynn Brook principal Janet Carey, found that full day kindergarten (FDK) will enhance learning, promote social and emotional growth and allow for a more relaxed pace at school — provide for more teaching in science, social studies and the arts and…hey…even let the kids play a bit, too!!

School Committee members, including Superintendent Peter Holland, signaled that they would push for funding for FDK in the coming town budget debate, which will begin after the New Year. Expected costs will be between $300,000 and $380,000 — around 1% of overall school funding for the academic year. Committee members also suggested (after questioning by *ahem* yours truly) that those costs would be lessened slightly by consolidated bus service and lower turnover among the kindergarten teaching staff.

Bottom line — this is a 1% boost in overall school funding to give Belmont what 66% of Massachusetts students already have. Worried about the increased taxes to pay for it? Cut your Starbucks intake by one Venti a week. That’ll more than pay for whatever your share will be. Trust me.

No surprise: the room was packed with anxious parents, the majority of whom supported the prospect of FDK for their kids. Members heard from working mothers worried about the expense of the current K-ED program (around $2,000 a year per child) and parents who desperately wanted for their kids what children in Watertown, Newton, Wellesley and other towns already enjoy. There’s a great FDK fact sheet available here (PDF format) with ca. 2005-2006 stats on FDK programs in the Bay State. The Committee also heard from a number of parents opposed to FDK — some citing conflicting research on the benefits. As Superintendent Holland said — the best evidence in support of FDK was the presence of so many of our kids teachers and principals at the meeting — all in support of getting FDK. Committee members also received a petition, signed by 250 community members, in support of FDK.

What next? Funny…I asked that question. The best thing you can do is to mail your Selectman and register your support for FDK. The town Web site gives selectmen@town.belmont.ma.us as an e-mail drop box for them. I’m betting its a dead letter address. (Update 12/26: Jeff Conti from the Office of the Selectmen writes to say that the e-mail address does work and is checked daily by staff there.) Not sure about Paul Solomon, who’s leaving office — but you can reach Angelo Firenze through at info@angelofirenze.com. Get those e-mails coming, people. Also check the town calendar for Warrant Committee meetings. BloggingBelmont will post notice of them as we learn.

School Committee meeting to discuss full day kindergarten

Just a note to the BloggingBelmont community that there’s an important School Committee meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, Dec. 11) at 7:30 at the Wellington School that everyone should try to get out and attend. On the agenda: The Kindergarten Task Force report on introducing full day kindergarten in Belmont.

Those of us with elementary school children in town know that full day K is a top priority — most other towns (including Watertown and Lexington) offer it, and full day kindergarten classes were oversubscribed at Wynn Brook in the fall (haven’t heard about other schools). With studies showing that full day kindergarten improves the academic performance of children, full day K is becoming the standard across the country, and may eventually be mandated by the state.

Word on the street is that a petition is circulating among a minority of parents who are opposed to this (and I’m all ears for those of you who are opposed). We’ll see tomorrow night. But if you’re for or against — come down to Wellington School Cafeteria to voice your opinion.

Again — the School Committee meeting is at 7:30.  The BHS Madrigal singers will perform for the public prior to the meeting, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

See you there!