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Full Day Kingergarten to premiere in Woodbridge Township next school year

St. Cecilia's Church and school will be acquisitioned by Woodbridge public schools and transformed to make room for new kindergarten classrooms

St. Cecilia's Church and school will be acquisitioned by Woodbridge public schools and transformed to make room for new kindergarten classrooms

By: Patrick Coveny, Fall Editor and Reporter

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Last March, a successful referendum passed by Woodbridge residents gave the green light to a multi-million dollar school revamp project. Starting in the summer of 2018, ground with bill broken on a new Ross Street School and construction will commence on updates to Woodbridge Middle School. The school system will also acquisition St. Cecilia’s School in Iselin and upgrade its classrooms. Most importantly, a new full-day Kindergarten program will be piloted in the district for the first time.

Currently, only some select cities in New Jersey offer full-day kindergarten programs to residents. In Middlesex County, 16 out of 23 school districts have adopted full-day schedules. Woodbridge Township currently allows for half-day Kindergarten. The issue was taken up at the ballot box last Spring, however, due to recent consternation from district parents. Mayor John E. McCormac stood in support of the proposal, penning an op-ed in MyCentralJersey advising his constituents to give it the go ahead.

Overwhelmingly, voters decided to approve the $57 million venture on March 17th. Immediately, plans for implementation began at the Board office. In May, Superintendent Robert Zega sent out a memo to citizens, promising, “We will be writing our curriculum for FDK this summer. We will provide training for our kindergarten teachers during the 2017-2018 school year. We also have plans to revise our registration procedures to accommodate kindergarten registration for the spring of 2018.”


Online registration for full-day Kindergarten opened to the public in December and will run until March. Parents can now sign up on the district’s website for a sit-down interview with administrative officials. Guardians must prove that enrolled children live in the Township, are immunized, and have undergone a physical examination to gain entry into the program.

Daniel Harris, Chairman of the Curriculum Committee in Woodbridge, reports that, “The number of students registered for full-day kindergarten so far is 103…. Registration is being done in a scheduled and coordinated fashion as we can only fully register up to 30 students a day as the paperwork completion and verification process is thorough. We anticipate between 800-1000 full-day kindergarten students by the start of the school year in September.”

This massive undertaking is being financially aided by the state tax abatement program, PILOT- an acronym for Payment in Lieu of Taxes. Township school changes will ultimately cost close to $60 million. However, taxpayers will not see a rise in property taxes as a result. Instead, the town council and developers have come to an agreement, through PILOT, which allows for construction projects to be tax-exempt.

Harris explained, “Over the next several years, we anticipate some other projects will be constructed in Woodbridge Township. Instead of paying the regular tax rate, we’ll be given a PILOT with money that the town will receive.  [The state] will pay for the debt of the new schools that are being built.”

Full-day kindergarten will be funded from a fraction of this monetary assistance. As agreed upon, the Township will repay the state over the course of 30 years through annual PILOT payments. These are significantly less costly than traditional tax rates. Mayor McCormac also stated that new kindergarten classes will be further supplemented through revenue raised in recent economic development ventures.

Many opponents of the referendum cited this financial agreement as reason to vote against it in March. However, a wide consensus remains that more classroom time will be greatly helpful to Township residents. Full day kindergarten, proponents claim, will relieve parents in Woodbridge from the expenses of child care. Likewise, more educational time will greatly strengthen the knowledge of our youth.

Mrs. Sanchez, a teacher at Colonia High School and proud mother to a pre-schooler, agrees. Sanchez said, “I believe full day Kindergarten will benefit children… There will be more time for instruction and academic activities.  As a result, the students will be learning more content in their academic school year which will ultimately better prepare them for first grade.”

Simply put, Woodbridge Township did not provide full-day kindergarten in previous years because of capacity issues. According to Mr. Harris, the acquisition of St. Cecilia’s will supply space for 24 new classrooms. The Board of Education is hoping that the amount of enrolled kindergarten students will not exceed the limit for current schools. In the event that this does occur, the district is to transport students to Kennedy Park School #4.

Regardless, the implementation of this program will make a historic transformation in Woodbridge Township school policy.

 

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